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Long Beach Residents Demand Beach Protection — Now!

A view of National and Riverside beach in Long Beach on Monday. (Credit: Joseph Kellard)
A view of National and Riverside beach in Long Beach on Monday. (Credit: Joseph Kellard)
This is the first article in a two-part series.

It’s a sentiment a contingent of residents has voiced at various public meetings in Hurricane Sandy-battered Long Beach.

Long Beach Patch on Facebook.

“We’re talking about a new boardwalk; that’s not important,” Ray Ellmer, a former Long Beach zoning board trustee, said at a community input meeting on rebuilding the storm-destroyed seaside walkway. “What’s important is a seawall and a dune to protect life and property from natural disasters such as hurricanes.”

While City of Long Beach officials focus on rebuilding a new boardwalk, possibly by early summer, many residents have called immediate short-term beach restoration the city’s top priority. John Bendo, president of West End Neighbors Civic Association, said as much at the final boardwalk input meeting at City Hall Feb. 20.  

“And there are those that feel that this might be the opportunity to incorporate, at least in the short term, some form of protection, until a long-term plan, maybe through the Army Corps, could be instituted,” he said.

That opportunity includes about $5 billion the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the nation’s public engineering agency, has to allocate to Sandy-ravaged municipalities looking to rebuild their devastated beach- and bay-fronts, including a long-term plan to build dunes in Long Beach, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, announced at a press conference at National beach Monday.

Larry Moriarty, a West Beech Street resident representing a local Surfrider Foundation chapter, told the City Council that residents couldn’t rest without hardened protection for life and property in Long Beach.  

“We need emergency sand replenishment now,” Moriarty told council members at the Feb. 19 meeting. “We remain at risk with only window-dressing sand piles between us and what can be devastating to our fragile city.”  

But City Manager Jack Schnirman cites those makeshift sand barriers that stretch along the beach, as well dunes created with recycled Christmas trees at New York and Pacific beaches, as short-term measures the city has taken to hold back storms since Sandy. The city also seeks sand replenishment from FEMA as a short-term measure on the beach, where long-term 400,000 cubic yards of sand must be restored.

“We’re seeking additional sand on a short-term basis to bridge us until a long-term solution,” Schnirman told Patch on Tuesday, noting that the city understands that residents are “justifiably extremely concerned” that Sandy has left the city vulnerable and want to find solutions for future storms.

Jim LaCarrubba, the city’s commissioner of public works, said the city had discussed with the Army Corps short-term solutions, which could involve dredging offshore or near-shore or from an inlet to bring sand to the beach. “They have not come back to us with that determination,” the commissioner said. “They said before April 1 they should have something, as far as a plan goes.”

Said Schnirman: “We take the responsibility for storm protection extremely seriously and are moving aggressively to seek an effective long-term solution for our residents.”

Regarding a long-term plan, Chris Gardner, an Army Corps spokesman, said the agency still must deliver reports to Congress before the $5 billion in funds that come from a $60 billion Sandy aid package can be directed to municipalities for specific projects.

“Right now the people at our headquarters are interpreting the language before they can start distributing the funds for projects, because we have to make sure we’re adhering to the letter of the law,” Gardner said.

The Army Corps is putting together the Limited Reevaluation Report for Long Beach, an update on the agency’s prior storm damage reduction project with the city that would use the latest technology and design, Gardner said. “We don’t have a specific timeline for that report,” he added. “But it is contingent on funds and consensus approval from varying parties.”

At the Dec. 4 meeting, the City Council unanimously approved a resolution to move forward with the Army Corps storm damage reduction project that the council turned down in 2006, in part because it did not address flooding from Reynolds Channel. At that meeting, LaCarrubba said the Army Corps requested the resolution, which the city characterized as a first step to renewing talks and plans with the agency and public input on the project. The city has insistent, though, that beach reconstruction is a separate project from rebuilding the boardwalk.

Now, with the city in the midst of 10-step plan to rebuild the boardwalk with visions of an early summer opening, Bendo and other residents remain just as adamant that both projects are inseparable and must include plans to protect the city’s bayside.

“You have to take into account that down the line there needs to be a beach protection plan that needs to be incorporated with the boardwalk design now,” Bendo said.

The second part of this series will appear Friday.

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RhondaVW February 28, 2013 at 11:00 AM
A durable composite seawall installed along the boardwalk would add around $8/sqft to reconstruction costs. ------------------------------http://tinyurl.com/boardwalkseawall
John Bendo February 28, 2013 at 11:58 AM
I find it troubling that we can begin a boardwalk rebuilding project within a matter of months because it is an “economic driver,” but doing anything that protects our lives and our property is part of a longer term plan. What message does that send about the priorities? Is building a boardwalk quickly really more important than protecting people and property? We keep hearing about building stronger, smarter and safer. How is leaving out protection of people and property smarter and safer?
Me February 28, 2013 at 12:20 PM
A new boardwalk really is little more than a feel good measure if it doesn't inlcude some kind of storm protection and will likely be a waste of money as it will have to be rebuilt, or re-engineered if an ACOE plan comes along in the future. Finally why is it going to cost $25,000,000 whene everyone else in NJ can do it for so much less?
paul.d.spellman February 28, 2013 at 01:21 PM
John, Do you know if the city or chamber has any definitive data regarding how much of an “economic driver,” the boardwalk actually is? The following are not directed at Mr Bendo, just asking: Have they ever taken an exhaustive survey (similar to what was just completed) of boardwalk users and their actual economic impact? If it such a driver should we consider building 2 of them?
Me February 28, 2013 at 02:05 PM
How about build something that includes some kind of storm protection and run it from Lido to EAB.
kim k February 28, 2013 at 02:34 PM
If you read carefully, Schumer said he would secure funds from FEMA for a boardwalk that is part of a protective structure: Our local uneducated council is like a group of small children who only hear what they want to hear. Anyone who was on the boardwalk west of the Alegria after the storm knows the damage was severe but repairable. We could have used what we had until a comprehensive, intelligent plan for rebuilding was worked out. Now we have nothing and until we have a plan for a structure that will protect us from future storms there will be no outside funding.
KatD February 28, 2013 at 02:39 PM
what happened to a stronger, better and smarter Long Beach? Maybe we should all build sea walls around our homes sine it doesn't look like the city cars about us.........just a thought
Me February 28, 2013 at 03:14 PM
Larry, My thoughts exactly!!!!!! While the damage estimates and cost to repair were widely debated, we probably could have repaired it for a little more than what we have paid already in studies and demolition. If we did that our "economic engine" (really?) would be up and running in it's entirety for this season and we could all feel good knowing we did something to get some normalcy back. Instead somebody came up with this boondoggle of a plan that is going to cost the taxpayers millions of dollars that doesn’t include any form of storm protection and could quite possibly need to be replaced again in any future ACOE project at a cost of even more millions. I really doubt our civic leaders who couldn’t even manage to get garbage cleaned up after the storm can pull off the coup of designing/engineering a boardwalk, getting bids, selecting a bidder, contracting that bidder and then start, let alone finish, construction of even a small portion before the end of summer. In the meantime they still haven’t come up with a cost estimate or plan for how they will control access to the beach this summer so they can collect fees or at least they aren’t saying what it is. This isn’t really a Dem./Rep. issue it is about doing things the right way we are supposed to be building Long Beach Better, Stronger and Smarter! This isn’t it folks. As I have said before I am no expert on any of this and these are just my opinions but I sure do see some serious mistakes being made and the city doing nothing to address them or rebut the arguments with any sound logic. Their silence is deafening on this.
John Bendo February 28, 2013 at 03:14 PM
Paul, I do not know if there is data that supports the economic impact of the boardwalk. I am of the opinion that it is the beach that is the draw. People didn’t come to Long Beach just to walk/jog/bike on wood planks. They came for the ocean view and the beach. It is the beach itself that is the draw. So if we develop a business model around the beach, we could make Long Beach a family friendly destination and create positive economic impact for the community.
BSM February 28, 2013 at 04:11 PM
I am curious to know exactly what kind of safety provisions are envisioned for the oceanside in the West End. From NY Ave moving east, I can see extending a barrier of sorts between the building at the height of the underside of the boardwalk, similar to the board skirting we had previously. But it should be of much stronger material, possibly concrete. The problem with a sea wall is it would have to encompass the whole of Long Beach and be absurdly high to provide any guarantees. I also question what would happen to the West End if a wall was built in conjunction with the boardwalk. Might it not force storm surge westward? I just am not clear on how much can be done to protect the West End other than replenishing the dunes and repairing or raising the height of the bayside bulkheads. We have been losing beach width over the time I have lived here even with the jetty system. To my mind, if we could find a way to recapture more width that would be a huge first step.
Hamburger February 28, 2013 at 04:21 PM
i have been pondering this very thing. Think of a storm surge of large battering waves on a SE swell, which is how it will always come. Would it hit that seawall and then bounce back and double up until it found a way in (i.e. after seawall ends)? I think that would crush the West End.
David Prophet February 28, 2013 at 07:22 PM
While I certainly agree the beach is the primary economic driver, it is worth considering that the role the boardwalk plays in drawing people to the beach is likely significant. There are likely many people who choose to come to Long Beach as opposed to other local beaches because we have (had) a boardwalk...as in people come here to enjoy both. It is not a stretch to suggest that beach attendance will likely decline, perhaps even significantly, without the boardwalk. And of course, the boardwalk also serves as one of the most vital draws for home ownership here which naturally adds to the value of our property. The boardwalk and the beach are not mutually exclusive.
Trying to Make Sense March 01, 2013 at 08:11 AM
Paul, some time ago you made the point that surfing was a major economic driver for the City's businesses... where did you get that data?
Beachguy March 01, 2013 at 08:53 AM
Ha, ha ha, ha! Ha,ha, ha ha,ha!
Longbeacher March 01, 2013 at 12:21 PM
just think what we could have done with the 20 thousand in stolen/misplaced cash from the summer beach receipts ,this is a fact and why its not being reported I DON'T KNOW ,but maybe if we bitch enough we can find out what this admin is doing about it
Longbeacher March 01, 2013 at 12:25 PM
i think we should build a big sea wall around Long Beach that way when we get a big storm and the water comes into the streets ,there will be no where or way for it to receed ,this way i will not have to walk to the beach ,i can swim infront of my house ,great ideas make long beach a big water bowl
Hamburger March 01, 2013 at 12:46 PM
bad idea - water needs to drain back to the bay
paul.d.spellman March 01, 2013 at 02:14 PM
MS, Another one bashing the surfers? Surfers will have you know they are lawyers, doctors, teachers and others. The surfing community in LB is one of the largest economic drivers we have. They support 4 surf shops and 2 schools as well as many philantopic endeavors. Look back 18 months and recall how crowded the quiksilver department store just off the boardwalk was. Although not publicly reported I would guess hundreds of thousands, if not millions, was spent in that one venue. Can you imagine if quiksilver and other surfing companies were allowed to set up similar department stores on the oceanfront what the net effect on businesses in this town would be. We can also say that more people spent money going to the QS store than to the boardwalk.
Beachguy March 01, 2013 at 07:21 PM
The boardwalk went from tawdry to sterile. Let's not make it Atlantic City but also not a cure for insomnia.
Longbeacher March 01, 2013 at 10:05 PM
Candygram ,i was trying to be funny ,that my point
Longbeacher March 01, 2013 at 10:13 PM
Paul,bad news ,the quiksilver store did under 200 thousand ,the venue lost 11 million for quiksilver ,and thats with the insurance refund to quiksilver they took out ,so before you start building surf shops on the board walk check the facts ,we also have 4 shops in town that don't need any corparates coming in taking them down ,i dont know where your getting your facts ,surfers are the main $ in the city ?wrong. and i'm a surfer .and where do u plan to build these stores on the BW ornext to BW ? theres no place to build ?1 lot is open on lb road .its owned be 5 people not the city
Robert Roden March 02, 2013 at 01:14 PM
I've only seen a couple of people mention the bay. Much of the damage to our city was from the bay coming over the "wall". I have no idea what can be done to contain the channel, but we should at least include it in our discussions.
Karen McInnis March 02, 2013 at 02:59 PM
Robert....couldn't agree with you more about the bay. The water was up to my doorstep by 8am the DAY of Hurricane Sandy. My "head" and my wallet say leave Pennsylania Ave, which was decimated by the storm, but my heart says stay and rebuild. As our federal government allows $85 billion in spending cuts take effect this week...i am very worried about the heavy reliance on federal funding for these capital projects. And i
Karen McInnis March 02, 2013 at 03:01 PM
get sick just thinking about the impact of lost beach revenue to the City this summer.
Candygram for Mongo March 03, 2013 at 07:34 AM
You would have to raise the entire city
Longbeacher March 03, 2013 at 10:10 AM
i have an idea ,keep all the crap you don't need out of the garge and basement ,move our cars next time ,dont have ilegal basement apt ,AND DON'T USE SHEETROCK in your basement ,wood with foam board ,just a few thing s that might help next time that might help us all a LITTLE bit
Trying to Make Sense March 04, 2013 at 07:48 AM
Paul, you have not answered the question. Yes, lots of kiddies were in the Quicksilver store. It was a prerequisite for feeling "cool" among the JHS- 25 year old demographic. Quicksilver did a nice hit and run on LB $ not leaving anything of value to the community as a memento of their big event and yes, as I recall, certain surf shop owners were even conclaved with City officials to determine whether the City should devote its limited resources to getting their show up and running rather than serving the emergency needs of a Hurricane Irene ravaged community. That's not bashing Paul. That's fact. I hope you enjoyed the show. I was in the water. Paul I was merely pointing out that asking for data on whether the BW is an economic driver is about as silly as challenging that surfing is not. Maybe you don't know enough out of towners, or you don't read New York Magazine or Time Out NY, or Newsday but confer with any of those sources and you'll find that our boardwalk is at the top of the list as reason to visit here rather than other area beaches. Magazine articles even refer to the BW proximity to stores and restaurants on Park Ave. But the eyes do not lie either... you have not noticed all the out of towners strolling the BW en mass? Most of them buy something. Many out of town surfers get here early or late(no beach pass), take a parking spot, change out of their wet suits on the boulevards, a few leave bottles behind next to their cars, and head home. I'm sure some frequent LB surf shops or other shops too.
Me March 05, 2013 at 09:22 AM
I think there really are two issues when it comes to “storm protection”, that while they could be addressed separately they shouldn't be. The most likely and more frequent source of flooding is and was the bay. I would venture to say most homes were flooded from the bay long before water came from the beach as stated above many were flooded by the first high tide in the morning of Sandy. The second part is storm protection on the ocean side that should protect us from waves crashing into homes, buildings and businesses if the dunes let go again or where there is zero protection now. This is one of the reasons why the 2006 plan was voted down; the more likely scenario of flooding from the bay was completely ignored in that plan. I don’t have all the answers but I think we all agree we need to do something but we need to do it in a well-reasoned, thought out manner and not jump into anything that we will later regret or we will deal with down the road when the next big storm comes. Let’s build better and smarter not just jump on the first train that rolls into town.
Hamburger March 05, 2013 at 09:52 AM
Unless that train will be the ONLY train, in which case i say: jump on it!

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