Under the Walk

Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued a decree at a meeting Friday in the Rockaways.

“I guess this settles the issue of wooden boardwalks vs. concrete boardwalks,” he said. “There will be no more wooden boardwalks in Rockaway or anywhere else. I don’t know that we can reconstruct the boardwalk before this summer, but it will be done.”

Hurricane Sandy destroyed most of the 5.5-mile wooden walkway. Despite all the romantic talk about rebuilding, the mayor wants to replace the boardwalk with concrete. What do you call that? An elevated sidewalk? A pavement in the sky? Manhattan on the beach?

A concrete walkway would be sturdier than the boardwalk that has been a part of life here for generations, but it will never be the same.

Even if the mayor is right, we question how he arrived at this conclusion. It appears the city Parks Department was caught off-guard. The department claims it is studying what should be done.

Although she wasn’t consulted, Borough President Helen Marshall told the New York Post she backed the concrete plan.

“It makes a lot of sense after seeing firsthand the damage Sandy did to the Rockaway boardwalk,” she said.

The Friends of Rockaway Beach disagree. They note the sections of the boardwalk protected by stone jetties survived the storm. In Brooklyn, the city is being taken to court by a group that wants to keep the boardwalk wooden in Coney Island.

While we share the preference for the boards, that’s not our primary concern. Why did the mayor make decisions without input from the community, local elected officials and the community board?

This hubris is the mayor’s tragic flaw, one that separates him from the people who elected him.

The Bigger Question

There is a larger question that no one is talking about in the wake of Sandy.

Some scientists say cities should think twice before building communities near coastal waters. A report released this week in the journal Science claims that oceans worldwide rose by an average of about 11 millimeters from 1992 to 2011 as ice sheets near both poles are melting faster than expected — possibly as a result of global warming.

Researchers say this may have contributed to the destruction brought on by Sandy, Hurricane Katrina and the tsunami in Japan. If the oceans continue to rise, how safe will coastal communities be 20 years from now?

It’s something to think about.

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