It's Expected to be Completed in November
The city formally launched the start of reconstruction of its 2-mile-long boardwalk on Saturday with officials promising that future storms will have a harder time demolishing it than Superstorm Sandy did.
The groundbreaking - more accurately a sand-breaking, as one visitor to a city website noted - occurred under sunny skies in front of a crowd estimated by city Manager Jack Schnirman to be as large as 2,000 people. Democratic U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer even pedaled his bicycle from Brooklyn to attend.
Schnirman called it "an incredible moment in the city's comeback" after Sandy flooded the city of 33,000 people last October, pouring water across a strip of land located about an hour by train east of Manhattan. The storm ruined hundreds of cars, flooded homes and contaminated drinking water for days.
City Council members marked the occasion by lowering into place the first beam, which was taken from the boardwalk crushed by Sandy.
"Even with the new we'll have a flavor of the old," Schnirman said.
A golden shovel was used to symbolically move some sand as local school bands provided music in temperatures not quite warm enough for anyone to wear a bathing suit.
Schnirman said the new boardwalk, budgeted to cost up to $44 million, is scheduled to be completed in November, though a half-mile of it is expected to be finished within about three months.
"Throughout the summer we're going to be opening sections of the boardwalk as they become available," he said.
He promised the boardwalk would be sturdier because it would be built with tropical hardwood and concrete supported by straps and a retaining wall built to sustain hurricane-force winds and storm surges.
"It's going to be one of the strongest around," Schnirman said, predicting it would last 30 years or more rather than 10 years or less.
The old boardwalk, one of the longest and widest in the Northeast, was so badly damaged that chunks of it floated blocks away.
Resident Samantha Gerantabee said she missed the boardwalk, where she pushed her baby in a stroller every day and ran.
"It's been sad and not as pretty without the boardwalk," she said.
Another resident, Todd Christopher, said he had just moved to Long Beach only to see the devastation the storm left behind after wiping out the boardwalk.
"It's a bummer that it's not here," he said. "It's something to do during the day. I know people who don't live here come to use the boardwalk."
Democratic Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg, 79, said he was one of the first people to regularly run on the old boardwalk and had watched its importance grow over the decades.
"When I first started running on the boardwalk people used to stare at me and say, `What is he doing?"' he said. "Now people of all shapes and sizes use the boardwalk, many health conscious people."