Long Beach reopened the first section of its new oceanfront boardwalk this weekend with a sneak preview of the entire rebuilt structure that superstorm Sandy destroyed.
The City Council in April awarded a Plainview firm a $44.2 million contract to construct a new, 2.2-mile boardwalk, replacing the one ruined by the storm. Ground broke later that month, and finishing touches are due in November.
The city hosted a carnival and concert near the boardwalk construction site Saturday night and allowed residents and tourists to walk on the middle two blocks, which are completed save for a few finishing touches. Dozens of residents lined up at the entrance of the boardwalk and ran up its new ramp as soon as workers removed barriers.
"It was an amazing sight," said City Manager Jack Schnirman, who called the chance to use the boardwalk a "sneak preview" for residents awaiting the full rebuild.
The opening of the boardwalk section, which is less than half a mile, was a one-time special event, city officials said.
The city's contract with Grace Industries of Plainview requires it to finish the boardwalk's middle four-fifths of a mile -- which contains the newly reopened section -- from Laurelton Boulevard to Long Beach Boulevard, by July 23. That stretch will be open to the public when it is completed, city officials said.
The outer segments of the boardwalk, which stretch to Neptune Boulevard in the east and New York Avenue in the west, must be finished by mid-October, the contract states.
The new boardwalk will be stronger than the previous one because it will be made of resilient tropical wood, representatives from project engineer LiRo of Syosset have said. City officials are counting on that, because they believe the boardwalk is critical to Long Beach's economic health and summer tourism season.
Some residents have balked at the boardwalk's price tag, which is higher than the original estimate of $25 million. But City Council President Scott Mandel has said the boardwalk will ultimately save money because it will "require significantly less maintenance" than the old one.
City officials have said they intend to pay for some of the cost of the new boardwalk with Federal Emergency Management Agency money. FEMA has agreed to reimburse the city for storm-related damage.
The cost of Saturday's concert and carnival was offset by donations, city officials said.
Just north of the boardwalk, where I.Fly Trapeze School was hosting an acrobatics performance near the carnival, host Anthony Turino told spectators it was a great day for Long Beach.
Turino told the crowd: "Long Beach is back."