That’s the question in a makeover of the iconic Coney Island boardwalk in Brooklyn, New York. The debate over the last year or so has become an interesting intersection of emotion, aesthetics, climate change and cold hard cash. Everyone loves the old-fashioned East Coast boardwalks. Mayor Michael Bloomberg began the discussion with a decree that the boardwalk could not be built with the same tropical hardwood used in the previous boardwalk.
In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in 2008, Mayor Bloomberg said: “Our City’s agencies will immediately reduce their use of tropical hardwoods by 20 percent. They will do that by specifying domestic wood, recycled plastic lumber, and other materials in the design of park benches and other construction projects.”
City officials originally opted for an all-concrete boardwalk for a variety of reasons, including economic. According to city officials, concrete costs $90 per square-foot, compared to $114 per square foot for a concrete slab topped with recycled plastic lumber. Fans of the old boardwalk howled at the outrage. A concrete boardwalk? As of April, 2011, New York City Parks Department officials proposed use of concrete for a strip down the middle of the Boardwalk with wood-plastic composite on either side.
That decision made no one happy, but it looks like it might stand.