Cuomo: Long Beach boardwalk rebuild won't cost local taxpayers

Left to right: State Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg, Gov. Left to right: State Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and Sen. Chuck Schumer take part in a ceremony to reopen the Long Beach boardwalk. (Oct. 25, 2013) Photo Credit: Jeremy Bales

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The state plans to use federal superstorm Sandy recovery money to ensure the new Long Beach boardwalk will not cost local taxpayers, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Friday.

Cuomo made the announcement at the reopening of the finished boardwalk, which Sandy destroyed a year ago. The $42.7 million cost of the rebuild is about $1.5 million less than the city budgeted for the project.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has agreed to finance about $30 million, FEMA officials said Friday.

The state plans to use a portion of $2.1 billion in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development money to bridge about $9 million of the gap, Cuomo said. Federal and state officials announced that money was headed to New York State on Wednesday. The state will cover the rest of the project with Community Development Block Grants, a Cuomo spokesman said.

Long Beach officials initially estimated the new boardwalk would cost $25 million, but the price increased after the city council decided to rebuild with stronger, pricier tropical hardwood.

Cuomo defended that decision, which some residents criticized because of the high cost.

"This boardwalk is stronger than before," Cuomo said at Friday's event. "The city council did the right thing by making this decision."

FEMA spokesman Jim Homstad said the agency determined the amount eligible for reimbursement was $33.5 million. FEMA's 90 percent share amounts to just over $30 million, he said.

City manager Jack Schnirman said Cuomo's funding pledge validates the decision to invest in a sturdier boardwalk. "It's full-funded at no cost to the Long Beach taxpayer," he said.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who pushed for HUD money for the project, said federal money will cover the entire cost. "Long Beach is getting its $42 million," Schumer said.

The city began opening sections of the boardwalk as they were completed in July. On Friday, officials reopened the completed boardwalk to the public in a ceremony attended by about 600 people.

Some minor detailing work will be completed in the next two weeks, Schnirman said.

The boardwalk -- 2.2 miles long and 17 feet high, like its predecessor -- runs along the city's oceanfront. The city has had a boardwalk for a century, and local leaders say it is critical to the city's economic health, especially in the summer tourism season.

"It's symbolic, today, because it shows a project completed," said city council president Scott Mandel.

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