The Federal Emergency Management Agency has agreed to cover $9 million spent on rebuilding the Long Beach boardwalk after superstorm Sandy wrecked most of the iconic pathway.
Long Beach city officials and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's office appealed a 2013 decision in which FEMA declined to cover the additional expenses to improve the boardwalk from its original form.
Long Beach officials completed the rebuild of the 2.2-mile boardwalk for about $40 million in October 2013. The storm a year earlier had destroyed the historic walkway, which lines the beach and runs adjacent to a row of high-rise condos and apartments overlooking the Atlantic on the city's southern border.
FEMA agreed to pay 90 percent of expenses to replace the boardwalk in its initial form, but improvements that weren't covered cost $9 million.
City officials said the original southern yellow pine used for boardwalk planks was unavailable. The city instead opted for sustainable tropical ipe hardwood, which was the next available option at a higher cost and is more durable. The city also added a concrete foundation and retaining wall for flood prevention.
Cuomo said during the boardwalk's 2013 reopening that the state would cover the additional $9 million expense but would continue to fight for federal funding. The state's Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services argued that the boardwalk was built with more storm-resilient materials. The new foundation wall reduced the effect of storm waves to the boardwalk and surrounding buildings, local and state officials said.
"The boardwalk is the social, cultural and economic heart of Long Beach and its restoration after Sandy was a critically important part of Long Island's recovery after the storm," Cuomo said in a statement.
Long Beach City Council President Len Torres said 88 percent of residents surveyed requested a "stronger, smarter and safer boardwalk to withstand future storms."
During the past year, the city has also added new rest areas and bathrooms along the boardwalk, and it plans to increase vendors and food trucks.
City Councilman Anthony Eramo said rebuilding the boardwalk in its original form would have left the city vulnerable to future storms.
"The new boardwalk should last many generations without the level of maintenance that was previously required," Eramo said. "Should we have another weather event, I hope we never have to prove that the wave wall works."