Long Beach envisions more boardwalk amenities, activities

The boardwalk on Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014 in The boardwalk on Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014 in Long Beach. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

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Long Beach residents are being asked whether they want their boardwalk to include concerts and movies like the booming days of the '30s and '40s or be a quieter destination for runners and bicyclists offering more shade and food vendors.

The city is holding a series of meetings this week to gather input for redeveloping the boardwalk, which was rebuilt last year after superstorm Sandy tore it apart.

Suggestions offered at Monday's meeting included adding food stands and vendors along the boardwalk, and hosting concerts on the beach.

City officials don't want the 2.2-mile stretch to end up as loud and busy as Coney Island, but residents are asking for more concessions and amenities like shade structures and bicycle rentals, City Manager Jack Schnirman said.

The project is being led by Farmingdale-based Sustainable Long Island using storm funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The nonprofit has worked on the city's post-Sandy rebuilding since December 2012.

No dollar figure for developing boardwalk amenities has been set, but the city can submit plans equivalent to the value of replacing the 10 buildings in the area that were destroyed during the storm, Sustainable Long Island's executive director Amy Engel said. Additional improvements would have to be paid for through the city's capital improvements budget or private fundraising.

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The rebuilt boardwalk fully reopened in October. It is flanked mainly by residential buildings, hotels and vacant lots.

"Just because it's built doesn't mean it's finished," Engel told about 40 residents who attended Monday's visioning meeting. "We want to know what you want in a boardwalk."

Some said they wanted structures that offered shade, public restrooms, food stands and outdoor showers. Others said they wanted more activities on the boardwalk, such as concerts, movies on the beach, and arts and crafts vendors.

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"I'd like to see a few more amenities. I would love to be able to come purchase a healthy lunch from a local business," said Ellen Wiewel, 34, who moved to Long Beach six months before Sandy. "The city has a unique opportunity to rebuild. It's exciting while the city is envisioning its future."

The FEMA funding requires any new construction to be the same size or smaller than the buildings destroyed by the storm, and that all reconstruction occur north of the boardwalk and not on the beach, for protection from storm surge.

The city is aiming to use the boardwalk as an economic generator by attracting small businesses, jobs and tax revenue, Engel said.

A similar survey was conducted before the boardwalk was rebuilt. About 95 percent of those surveyed at that time said they used the boardwalk for exercise, about 87 percent said they used it for public events, and 75 percent said they used it for beach access and sightseeing.

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THE NEXT MEETINGS

Wednesday night from 7 to 9 at the West End Community Center, 91 Maryland Ave.

Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. at the East Elementary School, 456 Neptune Blvd.

Residents also can participate in an online survey by going to longbeachlistens.com and clicking on the "Boardwalk" tab.

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