Thursday, July 12, 2012

Coney Island Residents Sue To Stop Concrete Boardwalk - Cite Lack of Environmental Review


July 12, 2012

Contact: Geoffrey Croft - NYC Park Advocates
(212) 987- 0565
(646) 584- 8250 cell #

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.

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.

Read More:

Boardwalk Advocates File Suit to Block Concrete

New York Times - July 12, 2012 - By Liz Robbins


  1. I attended the hearing on the was a fiasco! Judge Solomon, as expected came down in favor of Parks & Rec.
    I have been waiting for the Plaintiffs'attorneys to file an appeal.
    That it has yet to filed is a puzzle! Given, what I believe to
    be the key point in his so outrageously 'slanted'
    in favor of the city, I think an appeal is highly winnable.

    To wit:

    "Solomon ruled late last week that the project does not need such a review, comparing it to changing an athletic field to artificial turf."

    While, in large part...he based his ruling on this claim:

    Petitioners’ Contentions
    The petitioners contend that respondent’s plans to replace the Riegelmann Boardwalk are subject to environmental review pursuant to the Environmental Quality Review Act (Environmental Conservation Law §8-0101, et seq. - “SEQRA”) together with Title 6 of the New York Code, Rules and Regulations (6 N.Y.C.R.R. §617, et seq.); and the New York City Environmental Quality Review (Executive Order 91 and Title 62 of the Rules of the City of New York 62 R.C.N.Y. §5-01, et seq. - collectively “CEQR”).
    Further, the petitioners are concerned that the Riegelmann Boardwalk project is one part of a long range plan to replace the entire boardwalk (approximately one million square feet) with recycled plastic lumber and concrete. This alleged long range plan is of great concern to the petitioners for two reasons. First, the Riegelmann Boardwalk and Coney Island Beach are enduring symbols of New York City and the famous Coney Island. Second, petitioners contend that respondent failed to take into consideration the environmental impact on this coastal area.
    Therefore, respondent arbitrarily and capriciously decided to first, classify the Riegelmann Boardwalk project as one not subject to environmental review, and second, not conduct a review of the aesthetic impact of recycled plastic lumber and concrete.
    Respondents’ Contentions
    The respondent argues that an environmental review was not necessary since the Riegelmann Boardwalk Project only involves maintenance or repair involving no substantial changes to an existing structure or facility and/or the replacement, rehabilitation or reconstruction of a structure or facility on the same site. As such, the project comes within the several exemptions from environmental review.
    Respondents also argue that an injunction should not be issued since petitioners cannot meet the necessary criteria. First, they cannot establish a likelihood on the merits since the petition is barred by the applicable statute of limitations. Second, there is an absence of imminent or irreparable harm. Third, equity dictates if the project is delayed, Parks will need to relinquish the grant money in the amount of $7,400,000.00 for the rehabilitation of the deteriorating boardwalk. Moreover, the petitioners’ alleged atheistic harm is outweighed by the environmental impact of deforestation."

    It's all about the money!

  2. As a follow-up...
    I just took a quick look at Solomons' "natural - to - artificial turf " statement. It reads:

    "In his ruling, he said the changes were similar to replacing an athletic field with artificial turf, which is not subject to environmental review."

    •"Some artificial turf requires infill such as silicon sand and/or granulated rubber. Some granulated rubber is made from recycled car tires and may carry heavy metals which can leach into the water table. Alternative sources of infill may provide a safer solution.
    •There is some evidence that periodic disinfection of artificial turf is required as pathogens are not broken down by natural processes in the same manner as natural grass. Despite this, a 2006 study suggests certain microbial life is less active in artificial turf
    •Artificial turf tends to retain heat from the sun and can be much hotter than natural grass with prolonged exposure to the sun."

    Source: Wikipedia

    Sounds like it should require an environmental review!