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Long Beach Boardwalk Meeting Puts Public Input Step to Rest

Sustainable Long Island unveils findings from community meetings and online surveys.

A meeting on the future of the boardwalk was held at City Hall on Wednesday. (Credit Joseph Kellard)
A meeting on the future of the boardwalk was held at City Hall on Wednesday. (Credit Joseph Kellard)

Their input came in all shapes, sizes and suggestions.

Among the Long Beach residents called to speak at Wednesday’s meeting at City Hall on rebuilding the Hurricane Sandy-damaged boardwalk, some said the new structure should remain true to its name and be built of wood, while others want a concrete center lane that will withstand heavy fire equipment.

Some said food carts should be featured at the many vacant lots that abut the boardwalk, as others expressed hope that the Deco Bike and exercise stations will be restored. And there were those who asked that teenagers be asked for their input on the project, while a few called for constructing a taller boardwalk with retaining walls.

Residents voiced these and other opinions after Amy Engel, director of Sustainable Long Island, gave a slide presentation on the findings of the public input the Farmingdale-based non-profit organization helped gather for the city. More than 2,320 residents and business owners took the online surveys and some 250 of them participated in four group meetings in the weeks leading up to the Feb. 20 meeting. All gave input on boardwalk reconstruction.

Of those who took the online surveys, most were between the ages of 35 to 44, and 51 percent were private homeowners. They were asked to respond to 16 questions about boardwalk-related values, and that which ranked as their top priority was its durability and resistance to future storms.

“And this was completely consistent with every focus group and with every person that came up to me after,” Engel said.

Other priorities included protection of the environment, public safety and quality of life, and safety and comfort for runners, cyclists and walkers, all of which suggest the type of material to be used. The majority of respondents said they want the boardwalk made of a wood-cement combination, above either of those materials separately, or a recycled hard plastic.  

About the most prevalent comments on economic development opportunities, Engel said: “And a lot of people want concessions back.”

In addition to 95 percent of respondents citing the boardwalk as a place where they exercise, many also said they like to go there to see people they haven’t seen for months, especially on a warm winter day, Engel said.   

Beach Protection and Army Corps Project

A number of residents who spoke at Wednesday’s meeting underscored the importance of protective measures as part of the boardwalk rebuilding process, from constructing retaining walls to rebuilding the jetties.

John Bendo, president of West End Neighbors Civic Association, said many residents believe the top priority now ought to be to protect people and property. He warned that after the new boardwalk is built, a future beach-rebuilding project could mandate a protective sand dune built along the boardwalk that would be higher than it.

“That’s a problem,” Bendo said. “You can’t de-couple one from the other. You have to take into account that down the line there’s going to be a beach protection plan that needs to be incorporated with the boardwalk design now.”

West Penn Street resident Sheldon Simon said the city needs to coordinate the boardwalk project with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the agency that proposed a beach-rebuilding project the City Council rejected in 2006 but that the current administration is working to resurrect.   

“There’s no reason why we cannot consult the Army Corps and say, ‘this is our design, what do you think?’ Do you have any recommendations,’” said Simon, who acknowledged that the two projects would be done different times.

Earlier in the meeting, City Manager Jack Schnirman recognized that the Army Corps project is very important for the city. “But it’s important for us to remember, especially tonight as we’re focusing on the boardwalk, that that’s a separate entity, and how we address the beach going forward is a separate project,” he said.

He noted that the Army Corps project has a much longer time horizon. “That’s a three to five year project, and we’re obviously looking for our boardwalk significantly sooner than that.”

Moreover, Engel’s slide presentation showed that the survey comments revealed an emphasis on the need for a short-term protective barrier incorporated into the boardwalk project, reading: “Safety and storm protection, especially incorporating a sea wall as part of the rebuilding of the boardwalk.”

Alternative Sources of Funding

A few residents addressed alternative forms of funding for the new boardwalk, a project that is estimated to cost $25 million, in addition to the amount the Federal Emergency Management Association is expected to provide the city.
One resident noted that, since many people exercise on the boardwalk, than a company such as Nike could be a potential sponsor.

Marvin Weiss, a Canals resident, suggested a buy-a-board project, if the city decided to rebuild with an ipe wood material. “If a piece of ipe wood costs $6 or whatever, I might raise my hand and say, ‘Okay, I’ll buy 100 boards,” Weiss said. “Maybe someone else will be 50 or one. Whatever it is, maybe there are enough people in this community that would gladly chip in dollars as well as time to do anything they can to help out with this situation.”

Another resident, Corey Zimmerman suggested that perhaps the city could find individuals or companies who can sponsor sections of the boardwalk to help fund the long-term upkeep of the new structure.  

“There could be a subtle sign, and it doesn’t even have to be that noticeable or garish, on a quarter-mile or block section that says, ‘sponsored by this person,’ and that person would have contributed a significant sum of money to have his or her name or company name on that piece,’” Zimmerman suggested.

What’s Next?

The community input meetings and surveys represent step five of a 10-step plan that city officials devised to rebuild the boardwalk, possibly by the start of summer. Schnirman said all the public input would be submitted to Liro Engineers, the engineering firm from Syosset that the city hired in January to help redesign the new boardwalk, as the next step in the plan. “They will now use that to assist them in reviewing best practices and generating operations and doing it quickly,” he said.

Once the materials and preliminary designs for rebuilding are finalized, the city will present them to FEMA and talks will commence with the agency about mitigation measures.

“[FEMA has] to approve what we all collectively are asking of them, which is to help us to rebuild our boardwalk stronger,” Schnirman said.

City officials said that the bid to rebuild the boardwalk will be advertised on the city website and in local newspapers, as well as other mediums for promotion. “Ultimately a bid will be awarded for construction and we’ll have a construction timeline,” Schnirman said.

Both Schnirman and Engel encouraged residents to visit the website Long Beach Listens to keep updated on the project.

But what if the boardwalk isn’t rebuilt this year? Billy Kupferman, president of Long Beach Surfers Association, encouraged residents to think about that prospect and find ways to still get people to visit boardwalk-less Long Beach this summer.

“If there were surf contests and volleyball games and concerts and things, we might be able to get by without a boardwalk for one summer, or work our way towards it and still take care of our community,” he said. 
Elliot Zuckerman February 25, 2013 at 06:48 AM
Well to all my friends, today there is a press conference with all the photo op leaders that will now fight for money to rebuild the boardwalk, as I read the story they are going to ask for money quickly and rebuild with material that will withstand a super storm like sandy. I would love to see this money and the new boardwalk happen very soon but I have my doubts will this happen? being I have so much faith in our system , lets sits back and see just how much power they do have. As negative as we are here maybe, just maybe we will have our boardwalk back within the next 6 months.I will be the first to stand up and give a big thank you. bets anyone on a time line?
RhondaVW February 25, 2013 at 06:05 PM
Hi JP. Fixed structures like seawalls can only speed up erosion where they are in the path of the water flow. A simple seawall would be a cheap 2nd line of defense behind a dune system designed to stop whatever storm surge gets past the dunes. The problem with dunes alone is that as you can see they are not built overnight and it would be very possible that LB might lose dunes in one storm and be hit by another before the dunes could be rebuilt. Plus it would keep tourist from sneaking onto the beach without a pass. :)
Me February 26, 2013 at 09:34 AM
I am no hydrologist or coastal scientist but it just seems to me that we could easily put some kind of a seawall hidden inside the dunes and under the boardwalk as a backup. How hard could it really be to just put in a wall of sheet pile, be it steel or composite, and cover it up with the dunes? It is a backup plan that is all. I realize there are issues with this idea regarding vehicle access to beach, would it cover the whole island, Etc. and it will do nothing to stop water from the bay, but as has been stated here before by many people just piling up sand isn’t going to do it in the future.
Stephen February 27, 2013 at 04:47 PM
Great to see the input and theme of hope for a quick rebuilding effort to get the boardwalk back up and running again. As for the boardwalk material itself, most haven't seen a precast concrete system with individual boards (treads) that actually looks like a traditional wood boardwalk. Check out www.permatrak.com The product would be integrally colored, textured to look like wood, no protruding nails, no annual maintenance headaches, etc.
Longbeacher March 03, 2013 at 10:04 AM
what ever they do ,it will still not be done by summer ,so join a pool or beach club if you don't like the sound of hammers,trucks or saws ,because as u sit at the beach this summer thats all u will hear.outa here

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