Bloomberg calls for end to wooden boardwalks, critics fear climate change

Some experts say that if builders had anticipated a need for "uplift resistance" and fastened the wood more securely to the concrete based on knowledge of how high water levels would rise, the wood would not have seen as much damage.

Local groups and environmental organizations are up in arms after Mayor Michael Bloomberg declared an end to the use of wood in boardwalk construction.

Massive stretches of the wooden Rockaway boardwalk were torn to pieces by Superstorm Sandy, while much of the concrete remained intact. This, on the heels of the city’s controversial decision to replace parts of the Coney Island boardwalk with concrete, which was met with vigorous resistance from locals.

“I guess this settles the issue of wooden boardwalks versus concrete boardwalks,” Bloomberg told The Wave, a local paper that serves the Rockaway. “There will be no more wooden boardwalks in Rockaway or anywhere else.”

Some local residents and sustainability groups insist the boardwalks were destroyed due to faulty engineering, not the materials they were made from, as the wooden boardwalk was not connected to the concrete supports.

Scott Francisco of the New York-based sustainable design firm Pilot Projects said the issue is that no one anticipated the level to which the water would rise, so “uplift resistance” was not a factor considered in the construction of the boardwalk.

Advocates are calling for the mayor to consider further scientific evidence, especially in light of both his and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s multiple assertions that Sandy was the result of climate change.

Francisco explains that the production of concrete produces carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to the onset of global warming, while wood used for building actually contains carbon that makes up 50 percent of its weight.

The sustainable use of wood in construction is considered by experts to be a promising means of keeping carbon out of the atmosphere.

Burning or allowing wood to rot releases carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere, making the disposal of the destroyed boardwalk a sensitive issue, Francisco explained. Sustainability experts would like to see the wood reused for things like indoor furniture.

The Parks Department has been storing at least some of the wood for possible reuse, though they have not yet decided how it will be reused, according to spokeswoman Vickie Karp.


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