Long Beach Thursday awarded a Plainview firm a $44.2 million contract to rebuild its iconic oceanfront boardwalk.
The remains of the 2.2-mile boardwalk, which was ruined by superstorm Sandy, were carted away in February, leaving a void where one of the city's most recognizable features had been. Long Beach leaders say the boardwalk is critical to the city's economic health, especially in the summer tourism season.
The city council held a special meeting Thursday night to vote on the contract, which was awarded to Grace Industries of Plainview unanimously. Grace's bid was the second-lowest of six submitted to the city.
"This is history that we're about to embark on, and it's scary," said Councilman Len Torres, acknowledging the project's heavy price tag.
Preliminary work on the project could begin next week, though a groundbreaking date is uncertain, city officials said. The contract requires Grace to complete the project in 210 days, officials said.
City leaders have said sections of the boardwalk will become available to the public as they are completed, and a substantial portion will be completed by the end of the summer.
The new boardwalk will be stronger than its predecessor because it will be made of resilient tropical wood, representatives from project engineer LiRo of Syosset have said. That's why the city, which has had a boardwalk for about a century, will pay more than the initial $25 million estimate for the project, officials said.
Long Beach officials have said they hope to pay for some of the work with Federal Emergency Management Agency dollars.
But some residents who spoke at the meeting said they feared a tax increase if FEMA funds don't come through.
"What happens if FEMA doesn't sign on? How are we going to pay for this?" Matthew Dwyer asked. "I want to be on that beach, I want to be on that boardwalk, but I don't want to be saddled with a bill because we were hasty."
Councilman John McLaughlin said the cost is "mind-boggling" but the city's beach is "naked without it."