A plan to use federal money to build a better Long Beach boardwalk is being pitched by Sen. Charles Schumer and city officials.
The plan, expected to be announced Monday, draws on special "hazard mitigation" funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, intended to help communities improve, rather than just replace, damaged facilities and infrastructure, and could mean the 2.2-mile, century-old landmark destroyed by superstorm Sandy gets rebuilt with concrete or long-lasting tropical wood.
The federal government would provide the bulk of funding upfront for the project, expected to cost $25 million, instead of requiring the city to pay upfront and receive reimbursement, saving it any borrowing costs.
A rebuilt boardwalk would be a "symbol to the city, and to every homeowner, that Long Beach is coming back," Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Sunday. But, he said, arguing for structural improvements, a strengthened boardwalk will "save money and lives in the long run. . . . It makes no sense to simply rebuild the boardwalk exactly as it was when we might have, God forbid, future storms."
Schumer said his office has held preliminary talks with the federal disaster-assistance agency. Once the city submits plans for the project, he said, he will call FEMA administrator William Craig Fugate.
City taxpayers would be responsible for up to 12.5 percent of the project's cost, but Schumer said he would argue for FEMA to pick up some of that.
The city council hired LiRo Engineers of Syosset earlier this month to prepare plans and specifications for the new boardwalk.
City Council vice president Fran Adelson said in a brief interview Sunday that while she was not familiar with details of Schumer's plan, "we certainly would want to go forward with what the senator proposes. It would be helpful to us in rebuilding our boardwalk."
City officials have said they hope to open the boardwalk -- or at least parts of it -- by the summer.
The boardwalk was built in 1914 by William H. Reynolds, who brought elephants to the construction site as a publicity stunt. The boardwalk was an integral part of his plan to develop Long Beach into "The Riviera of the East."