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Residents Fight To Keep Coney Island's Boardwalk Wooden

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Europe's nice, but hey, we have Coney Island. The two-mile wooden boardwalk there has been a beach fixture for more than 90 years. For New Yorkers like Rob Burstein, there's nothing like it.

ROB BURSTEIN: It was the place where we could come, even as a poor family, and enjoy a day out by the beach for no more than the cost of a subway token.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

But decades of wear-and-tear and damage from Superstorm Sandy, it's taken a toll. Las year, the city began replacing some of the old tropical hardwood with recycled plastic wood reinforced with concrete underneath.

SIEGEL: Rob Burstein is also the president of the Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance. His group is fighting the move to replace the wooden boards, but it's just not about nostalgia, he says.

BURSTEIN: For visitors and locals alike it also is a respite from the concrete that we all are surrounded by in the city, and it's kind of the spine of our community.

CORNISH: The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation says tropical wood is expensive and bad for the environment. Here's Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver.

MITCHELL SILVER: We're now dealing with the new reality of climate change that we did not deal with before. Superstorm Sandy was a wake-up call.

SIEGEL: Well, Rob Burstein doesn't buy it.

BURSTEIN: You would not tell a community like the Upper East Side or the Upper West Side, you know, Central Park needs maintenance, maybe we should put in plastic grass and plastic trees.

CORNISH: His group still hopes to preserve the Coney Island boardwalk by getting it recognized as a landmark.

SIEGEL: And Parks Commissioner Silver says he hopes the rebuild is complete by next summer. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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