Long Beach officials: Boardwalk almost done

A finished part of the Long Beach boardwalk A finished part of the Long Beach boardwalk on Oct. 15, 2013. Photo Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

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Long Beach officials termed the city's rebuilt boardwalk "substantially complete" Tuesday and turned their attention to securing funding for the $44.2 million project.

Contractor Grace Industries of Plainview met a deadline to have most of the work finished by Tuesday, Long Beach officials said. The city's contract with Grace requires the firm to complete minor items on the boardwalk by Nov. 12, but it should be completed and the unopened sections opened to the public before then, officials said.

City leaders are working with the state and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to determine how much of the project FEMA will fund. FEMA can reimburse up to 90 percent of Sandy-related rebuilding projects. Federal grants are also available for projects that make rebuilt structures better able to withstand natural disasters.

"It's very important that we get the proper price point," said city Councilman John McLaughlin.

FEMA and the state Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Services are working with the city to determine how much money the project will be eligible to receive, but no decisions have been made, spokesmen for both agencies said. The project must be finished for a funding decision to be made, officials have said.

"FEMA is continuing to work with the State of New York and the City of Long Beach on the process for reimbursing all eligible costs related to the Long Beach boardwalk," said Dan Watson, a FEMA spokesman.

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The city has spent $25 million on the project, which is on budget, said City Manager Jack Schnirman.

The $44.2 million price tag has been controversial in the city, where officials first estimated the project's total cost would be $25 million.

The price increased because the city decided to build a stronger boardwalk made of resilient tropical wood, city officials have said. That decision was made after 88 percent of 2,400 residents surveyed said rebuilding the boardwalk stronger was the project's most important aspect, officials said.

The new boardwalk also complements a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' plan to build a dune nearly 16 feet above sea level, the length of Long Beach's shoreline, just south of the boardwalk, officials said. The dune is in the design phase, officials said.

But some residents, including county Legis. Denise Ford (R-Long Beach), have said the higher price tag means the city needs to pressure FEMA to fund more of the project.

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"My concern, and the concern of others, is what is FEMA going to reimburse us for that boardwalk?" Ford said. "A lot of us think this seems like a lot of money."

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he has lobbied FEMA to fund the bulk of the project he described as an "economic engine" for Long Beach. "We're making progress, but it will be a little while before we know the result," he said.

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