Billy Crystal, Nancy Lieberman to help rebuild Long Beach basketball courts

Billy Crystal films a Long Beach commercial on Billy Crystal films a Long Beach commercial on Neptune Boulevard in Long Beach. (June 26, 2013) Photo Credit: Shaun Cleary

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The City of Long Beach will use money donated by actor Billy Crystal and basketball star Nancy Lieberman to rebuild public basketball courts damaged by superstorm Sandy.

Crystal, a Long Beach native, and Lieberman, who grew up in Far Rockaway and played for U.S. women's national team and in the WNBA, are funding the restoration of two courts near the Long Beach Recreation Center on the city's bayside, city officials said.

The work, to cost $83,519, will start immediately and be completed in one to two months, city officials said. The City Council awarded the contract Tuesday to Connor Sport Court International of Utah.

Crystal's portion of the work is part of a $1 million Sandy-relief donation he made to the city in June, city officials said.

"It's something for the community and something for the children," city council president Scott Mandel said.

Lieberman said in a statement on her website that she and Crystal made the donation because they hope the rebuilt courts will help the city "recover from the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy."

In a phone interview, she said she hopes the courts bring "friendship and fellowship" to Long Beach. "We're so excited to be doing this."

Crystal couldn't be reached for comment.

The City Council also approved spending $115,900 in city money to buy beachgrass to restore dunes washed out by Sandy. The contract went to Bissett Nursery Corp. in Holbrook.

The city is in the middle of rebuilding the dunes itself and the roots of the beachgrass are important to maintain the dunes, public works Commissioner Jim LaCarrubba said. They must be strong to help protect the city from storm surge during future storms, he added.

The grass is to arrive this month and will be planted by city workers and volunteers, LaCarrubba said.

The dune restoration has been completed in the East End and will soon be finished in the West End, LaCarrubba said. It has not begun in the middle of the beach, he said.

The restoration will conform to a plan the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working on to protect Long Beach Island from future storms, LaCarrubba said.

"It's critically important that we have a dune structure on our beachfront," he said.

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