A Hard Stand on Hard Top: In Defense of the Coney Island Concrete Walk

Where concrete meets tropical hardwood. (ⓅⒶⓎⓅⒶⓊⓁ/Flickr)
Installing a concrete plank. (Rubys Host/Flickr)
This is no day at the beach. (Rubys Host/Flickr)
Just like grampa remembers it, right? (Rubys Host/Flickr)
Can you tell the difference? (jackszwergold/Flickr
Looks like she can. (silversalty/Flickr)

There has been plenty of hand wringing over the fate of the Coney Island Boardwalk and whether or not it will become the Coney Concretewalk. The Public Design Commission is set to make the final vote on the seaside sidewalk this coming Monday. There, New Yorkers for Parks, an advocacy group that fights for better funding for city open space, will provide testimony in favor of the new hybrid concrete and plastic proposal for the boardwalk.

The group actually makes an interesting, nuanced argument—that you can read in full below—about why this plan is acceptable, if not ideal, and it is one that comes down to, well, the same thing every decision in this city comes down to: money. The cash-constrained Parks Department gets all of $1 million a year to maintain its boardwalks, and not just for Coney Island but those in the Rockaways and on Staten Island, too.

Given the cost of repairing the boardwalk, each plank gets replaced about once a century, at least at the current funding rate. Given the locally harvested woods critics are proposing, those would last five to eight year, leaving decrepitude for decades. (Part of the rationale for changing the make up of the boardwalk is the it used to be built with rare tropical hardwoods, an unconscionable act these days.)

Thus, for purely fiscal reasons, New Yorkers for Parks supports the current plan, acknowledging that it is in fact better than an all-concrete version, which was initially proposed would be the cheapest option.

An alternative answer, of course, is that the city could simply budget more money for boardwalk repairs, but this ignores the fact that the Parks Department is already scandalously under-funded, as well as the fact that any budget increases would naturally come out of the pockets of teachers or firefighters or some other important city agency.

And so, let the scalding of feet begin.

mchaban [at] observer.com | @MC_NYC

New Yorkers for Parks Coney Island Boardwalk Testimony

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