FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 12, 2012
Coney Island Advocacy Groups and Residents File Suit Against the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation to Prevent the Destruction of the Coney Island Boardwalk
(BROOKLYN, NY July 12, 2012) – Various grassroots organizations and Coney Island and Brighton Beach residents have filed a lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court in Brooklyn seeking to prevent the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (the “Parks Department”) from destroying the historic Coney Island Boardwalk and replacing it with a plastic and concrete structure.
According to the lawsuit, the Parks Department abused its discretion when it decided that its plan for the Boardwalk was not subject to any environmental review, even though the potential for negative environmental impact is obvious and far-reaching.
The lawsuit seeks to prevent the Parks Department from implementing a plan to replace 56,000 square feet of wood boards on the section of the Coney Island Boardwalk running from Coney Island Avenue to Brighton 15th Street with concrete and plastic. The lawsuit also contends that the Parks Department has a longer-range plan to replace most of the Boardwalk – approximately 1 million square feet of wood – with some combination of the same concrete and plastic materials.
The lawsuit contends that the Parks Department violated the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (“SEQRA”) and New York City’s Environmental Quality Review (“CEQR”) regulations by not subjecting its plans to the necessary environmental review. Under SEQRA and CEQR, state and municipal agencies are required to determine if actions they undertake may have a significant impact on the environment. Under the law, factors such as erosion, flooding, drainage problems, and impact on existing use must be considered. Additionally, an agency must consider the project’s impairment of the character or quality of important historical or aesthetic resources and existing community or neighborhood character.
The suit was filed by attorneys from Goodwin Procter, LLP, pro bono counsel for the Petitioners: the Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance, Friends of the Boardwalk, and long-time residents Robert Burstein, Ida Sanoff, Arlene Brenner, Brunilda Figueroa and Todd Dobrin.
“The city is required to consider a host of issues including environmental impacts before embarking on such a project which they did not ,” said Burstein, President of the Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance. "This project raises numerous public safety concerns which have not been addressed."
Among the impacts not considered:
· Concrete, which does not allow for drainage, creates a heightened risk of flooding and beach erosion when there are storms.
· The lack of drainage, in addition to damaging the concrete and plastic itself, also causes snow and rain to ice over in the winter, creating hazardous conditions and necessitating the use of hazardous chemicals and/or snow plows to clear the area.
· The increase in temperature of the concrete surface as compared to natural wood can cause an urban heat island effect, resulting in increased energy consumption, elevated emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases and impaired water quality in the surrounding community.
· The replacement of cracking concrete and buckling plastic may require the wholesale removal of sections of materials, causing greater environmental damage and disruption to activities than removal of one damaged wooden plank would cause.
· The demolition of the iconic wooden boardwalk that has been in the community for nearly 90 years and is part of a world-famous area would significantly impair the character and quality of what is obviously an important historical and aesthetic resource. Additionally, the demolition would equally impair the character of the Coney Island and Brighton Beach communities.
· Concrete and plastic absorb substantially less force than wood and therefore place far greater stress on the body. Consequently, people who enjoy the boardwalk for running, dancing, exercising and walking will be greatly restricted in their ability to use the Boardwalk as they have for decades.
The lawsuit seeks to compel the Parks Department to conduct a comprehensive environmental review of its plans, including a thorough analysis of these and other environmental impacts. “This is just the beginning of the battle,” said Burstein. “Ultimately, we do not believe the Parks Department should, under the environmental laws, use concrete and plastic to replace the wood. The first step, though, is to get the Parks Department to do the necessary environmental review, which they have not even done.”
Additionally, the lawsuit asserts that the Parks Department is trying to achieve its long-term plan to destroy most of the Boardwalk, aside from one four-block section, and replace it with plastic and concrete without conducting a proper environmental analysis of this large-scale action by improperly segmenting the plan. “It’s death by a thousand cuts,” said Burstein. “It is wrong. And it is illegal."
"Rather than spend the money to properly maintain the Boardwalk," said Brighton Beach resident Ida Sanoff, "the Parks Department wants to destroy this beautiful piece of New York and replace it with a different structure altogether without any environmental review or community input.”
About the Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance and Friends of the Boardwalk
The Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance is an unincorporated association dedicated to supporting and encouraging the revitalization and improvement of the Boardwalk while preserving its aesthetic and historical integrity. http://savetheboardwalk.wordpress.com/
Friends of the Boardwalk is a not-for-profit corporation that was founded to initiate, support and encourage projects for the revitalization and improvement of the Boardwalk and surrounding communities. http://fobconeyisland.com/