Long Beach boardwalk comeback begins with groundbreaking ceremony

About 1,000 attend Saturday's groundbreaking ceremony for the new Long Beach boardwalk. The city's oceanfront landmark was destroyed by superstorm Sandy, and officials have said its replacement will be sturdier against future storms. The $44.2-million project is expected to be completed by early November. Videojournalist: Jim Staubitser (April 27, 2013)

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The City of Long Beach officially began the resurrection Saturday of its 2.2-mile oceanfront boardwalk, wrecked six months ago by superstorm Sandy.

About 1,000 people attended a groundbreaking ceremony on the replenished beach at Riverside Boulevard. The $44.2 million project is expected to be completed by early November, with some sections to be reopened sooner. The beach will be opened for Memorial Day weekend, city officials said.

"We came together months ago to mourn the loss of our boardwalk," City Council president Scott Mandel said. "Today we celebrate the rebirth of it. . . . Everything is going to be bigger, safer and stronger."

The crowd cheered as a crane raised a beam from the old boardwalk, draped with a Long Beach flag, and placed it on top of cement pilings.

"I'll be happy when the boardwalk is done," said Kathy Hogan, 43, from the West End of Long Beach, who enjoyed running, walking and biking on the old boardwalk. "I miss it."

The City Council earlier this month awarded the contract to Grace Industries of Plainview, which is required to finish the boardwalk within a 210-construction day schedule. There are penalties for any day they run over, City Manager Jack Schnirman said.

The middle four-fifths of a mile, from Laurelton to Long Beach boulevards, should be completed by late July. The outer segments, which stretch to Neptune Boulevard in the east and New York Avenue to the west, must be finished by mid-October.

"We should have this boardwalk ready by Thanksgiving," Assemb. Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach) said after the ceremony. "Then we will have something to be thankful about."

Nearly 3,000 people came out in January to bid farewell to and collect souvenir pieces of the iconic city landmark, whose entire length had to be ripped out, leaving only concrete support beams. The new boardwalk will be made of sustainable tropical wood.

"This boardwalk is a symbol . . . of Long Beach and a symbol of New York," said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who biked from Brooklyn to the ceremony. "Nature can throw whatever it wants at us, and next time we're going to resist it."

The ceremony coincided with the reopening of Orient Beach State Park. The state hurried to repair superstorm Sandy damage to the popular North Fork beach before the summer rush, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Thursday.

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