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Long Beach spruces up main business district

Long Beach is revamping its main thoroughfare with

Long Beach is revamping its main thoroughfare with new recycling bins, street planters and bike racks as part of beautification efforts in its downtown, seen here on Oct. 1, 2015. Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Long Beach is revamping its central downtown business district to increase bicyclists and encourage recycling to keep sidewalks and storefronts clean.

The city launched its streetscaping plan in September, including adding bike racks, recycling receptacles next to trash cans and elevated flower planters along Park Avenue along the main stretch near City Hall.

City workers started a beautification initiative during the summer before the streetscaping plan, which included cleaning streets and, for the first time, power-washing sidewalks.

"It's our central business district, and the first thing you see when you're here in Long Beach," City Manager Jack Schnirman said. "It's a gathering place for residents. After the summer season was very crowded, it became clear we could use an upgrade."

Schnirman said the City Council wants to attract businesses to the downtown and increase walkability throughout Long Beach.

Last year, city officials approved 33 new business licenses, while 17 businesses closed. The city also recorded a record number of beach passes, collecting $4.3 million in its best summer ever.

City officials approved the project in this year's capital plan and purchased 50 dual trash and recycling bins for sidewalks for $122,200. Officials hope to capitalize on single-stream recycling pickups at homes that started last year, which has increased recycling by 33 percent, netting 102 tons of recyclable materials.

Workers also added hayracks on light poles containing fall flowers while closing sidewalk grates. Spring flowers will be added next year when the rollout of the project is to be completed.

The first phase of the project spans Park Avenue between National and Riverside boulevards. The project will later be expanded to other parts of the city, officials said. The city created an economic development agency two years ago to analyze and improve its economic outlook as a summer and now year-round destination.

Maintaining storefronts and sidewalks is up to individual businesses, which have received about 250 warnings or violations for sidewalk sanitation since the initiative started. Each new business that opens is also asked if it will accommodate bike racks. Several bike racks have been added on sidewalks along Park Avenue.

"The city council passed this because they believe one component in attracting business is a walkable downtown and having things to do in the city," Schnirman said. "When you have more people in the city, the idea is they are spending money locally."

Officials hope the new downtown streetscaping will also increase the chances for outside funding.

Earlier this year, the city was awarded $1 million from the New York Department of Transportation for the Complete Streets grant to improve Edwards Boulevard, a residential street that intersects with Park Avenue.

City officials may pursue similar state and federal grants for bike lanes, drainage improvements and green infrastructure projects.

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