Long Beach officials say the process of demolishing the city's beloved boardwalk -- set to begin on Saturday -- will be as painful as it is necessary.
The boardwalk has been the city's most recognizable landmark for nearly 100 years, but superstorm Sandy dealt it a crushing blow, and its remnants must be removed, City Councilman Scott Mandel said.
The demolition will allow the city to rebuild a new, stronger boardwalk, he said.
"It's the heart and soul of Long Beach," Mandel said. "It's an old friend -- it really is saying goodbye to family."
To commemorate the beginning of the demolition process, the city will hold a public ceremony Saturday at 11 a.m. at Grand Boulevard. The 2.2-mile boardwalk, which collapsed in several spots, is unsafe and no longer viable, but residents are welcome to come say goodbye to the "iconic landmark," city officials said in a statement.
Long Beach last month selected a Farmingdale firm to handle the removal for $1.435 million. The work will likely take a month, officials said.
Meanwhile, the city is preparing a request for proposals from firms for the design of a new boardwalk. The request will be issued early this year, Mandel said.
Mandel said the city hopes the new boardwalk will be in place by the summer. City officials have said it could cost $25 million.
The city will look to rebuild the boardwalk in a way that better protects it from natural disasters, Mandel said. Specifics have not yet been determined, said Mandel and other city officials.
"We're going to rebuild stronger, smarter and safer, and it's imperative that we have a boardwalk as soon as possible," said Gordon Tepper, a city spokesman.
A representative from Thomas Novelli Contracting of Farmingdale, the demolition firm, declined to comment.
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."
Long Beach won't be without its boardwalk for long, Mandel said.
"Everyone would come to Long Beach to go to the boardwalk," he said. "It's the focal point."