Despite impassioned opposition from many local residents, the Bloomberg-appointed Public Design Commission yesterday approved a plan to turn part of the famous Coney Island boardwalk into a mix of plastic and concrete. After postponing the vote multiple times, the Commission finally approved the Parks Department plan to change a five block section of boardwalk, from Brighton 15th Street to Coney Island Avenue, into a strip of concrete and plastic. The renovation will cost $7.5 million.

This section of "Plasticwalk"—as opponents have dubbed it—will feature a 12-foot concrete section in the middle for emergency vehicles, with 19-foot-wide sections of plastic faux boards on either side. The Parks Department maintains that the plastic is more cost-effective, because it's cheaper to produce, lasts much longer than wood, and is easier to maintain. (There is also citywide directive to limit the use of tropical hardwoods from endangered rain-forest supplies.) The original plan was for the entire boardwalk to be turned into concrete, but the Parks Department offered this compromise after pushback from the community and Coney Island aficionados.

Community Board 13 ultimately approved the compromise. Correction: The Community Board Parks Committee approved the compromise and sent it to the full board, but after community input, the full board voted against the proposal that was approved yesterday, by a vote of 21-7. (The Community Board's role was purely advisory in this process.)

Dozens of boardwalk "diehards," as the Daily News describes them, appeared at yesterday's meeting to plead with the commission, whose approval was required for the project. “It’s a travesty,” said Rob Burstein, president of the Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance. “This makes a mishmosh of the Boardwalk and creates both an aesthetic and a maintenance nightmare." But Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe has remained unmoved, telling the Times last month, "Suggesting that you can only have wooden Boardwalks because that’s what they were originally built of is like saying you should only have cobblestone streets."

Over 2,000 people signed a petition urging the city to "use sustainable domestic hardwoods such as Black Locust or White Oak for the surface decking (the part that we all see and on which we walk). The support structure underneath should be made from recycled plastic lumber, which the U.S. Army has used to build bridges that support tanks and locomotives." The city ultimately deemed the alternatives cost-prohibitive. But at yesterday's hearing, the commission pushed the Parks Department for further changes. The Times reports:

And even while voting yes, commissioners on Monday kept critiquing the city’s plan. After hearing testimony, James S. Polshek, a prominent architect and commission member, pressed the city on the decision to put the 12-foot concrete section in the middle of the Boardwalk, flanked by 19-foot sections of recycled plastic with a false wood grain. “It assaults logic,” Mr. Polshek said. “Why not segregate that section? I beg you to consider that.” Another member of the design panel urged the city to shrink the width of the concrete portion to 10 feet from 12 feet.

The city’s deputy chief of design for parks, Nancy Prince, said that the strip had to be wide enough for emergency vehicles and that the department thought the symmetry of the plastic-concrete-plastic layout was in keeping with traditional boardwalk design. Still, Ms. Prince said that the city would draft some alternatives based on the commission’s comments.

Other critics assailed the durability of concrete, displaying photos of experimental concrete sections of the boardwalk that were already cracking. Nevertheless, if this renovation meets the Parks Department's standards, the city is expected to make a similar change to the entire 42-block stretch of boardwalk, except for a small area in the Coney Island Amusement District.