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Officials: Long Beach boardwalk reopening date uncertain

The Long Beach boardwalk remained heavily damaged 2

The Long Beach boardwalk remained heavily damaged 2 1/2 months after superstorm Sandy hit the Long Island area. (Jan. 15, 2013) Photo Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

Long Beach leaders heralded a plan to rebuild the city's boardwalk stronger than it had been before superstorm Sandy, but declined to speculate when the tourist attraction could open.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) held a news conference in the shadow of the ruined boardwalk's concrete stanchions yesterday morning to say that he is pushing the Federal Emergency Management Agency for federal funds to build a new boardwalk that will stand up to a major storm. The century-old, 2.2-mile oceanfront boardwalk was destroyed in October by superstorm Sandy.

Long Beach officials appeared with Schumer to support his push. But city leaders who had said earlier this year that they hoped to have the boardwalk ready by summer also declined to speculate on a reopening date.

A stronger boardwalk likely will cost more than the project's original estimated $25 million price tag, officials said.

"It would be irresponsible of me to give a hard date," said City Council president Scott Mandel, who added that a portion of the boardwalk could reopen before the entire structure is completed. "We'll see how it unfolds."

City Manager Jack Schnirman added that 88 percent of 2,400 residents who filled out surveys about their preferences for the new boardwalk said a stronger boardwalk was their top priority.

The boardwalk's reopening is critical to the city's economic future, Schumer said.

"It's going to say, 'We are back, Sandy's gone,' to Long Beach, to Long Island, to New York, and frankly to the world," Schumer said.

A Syosset engineering firm, the LiRo Group, is working with the city on plans for the new boardwalk. A final proposal could come within two weeks, city Public Works Commissioner Jim LaCarrubba said. The city "will have a rough estimate" on the cost of the work after it solicits bids, LaCarrubba said.

Schumer said his plan is for FEMA to pick up much of the tab with a "hazard mitigation grant." He said he will meet with FEMA officials Tuesday.

"FEMA will give full consideration to hazard mitigation grant requests submitted by the state with the intent of rebuilding a stronger coastline," a FEMA spokesman said.

Assemb. Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach) said getting the boardwalk rebuilt soon is imperative for Long Beach jobs and tourism. He also said he agrees with rebuilding stronger.

"Long Beach really is in trouble if we don't have a boardwalk," he said.

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