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Long Beach residents, officials want lively boardwalk, but no Coney Island

The boardwalk in Long Beach on Oct. 21,

The boardwalk in Long Beach on Oct. 21, 2014. Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Long Beach residents have given the city a wish list of improvements and events to be added to the boardwalk as officials look to find attractions to replace those lost in superstorm Sandy.

Residents at meetings and in a city-sponsored survey said they want to see more concessions, bathrooms and concerts added as Long Beach enters its second phase to redevelop and rebuild along the boardwalk that was destroyed in Sandy.

The rebuilt 2-mile-long boardwalk fully reopened a year ago.

"The boardwalk is built, but it's not finished," Long Beach City Manager Jack Schnirman said. "We're setting the direction of the boardwalk for years to come."

About 90 percent of those responding to a city survey or request for comments said they use the boardwalk for leisure and exercise. About 60 percent of residents said they go to the boardwalk for events and entertainment, according to survey results.

Residents said the most important additions to the boardwalk should be shade structures, outdoor showers and food concessions, officials reported. Residents also requested fitness areas and seating with tables.

The survey results indicated high interest in adding concerts to the boardwalk in addition to fairs and sporting events.

But residents were concerned about boardwalk crowding and asked officials to keep areas clear for walking and exercise. Several people also asked to keep bike lanes clearly marked. Those surveyed said they would like to see a mobile police station on the boardwalk and greater enforcement of boardwalk rules.

City officials said while they want to add attractions to the boardwalk, they don't want to build it out like Coney Island or Atlantic City.

"We saw the balance of what residents like and value the recreational aspect of the boardwalk," Schnirman said. "People want more amenities, but we have to make sure we don't interfere with the current feel of the boardwalk."

No funds have been allocated for the redevelopment project. The city can be reimbursed with Federal Emergency Management Agency funding only for replacing structures, such as bathrooms, destroyed by the storm.

City officials have no timeline to start construction on any amenities. Boardwalk improvements would have to be added to the city's capital fund or be funded through outside sources such as grants or donors.

Concrete bathroom structures on the beach adjacent to the boardwalk were washed out to sea during Sandy, Schnirman said. Improvements must also be built to new flood elevation codes and building standards.

The city held three public meetings in August with about 165 residents and hosted an online survey of nearly 1,300 people to gather suggestions for the future of the boardwalk. Officials also conducted robocall surveys to 15,000 homes.

The redevelopment is being led by the city's Long Beach Listens group, which was formed to remodel the boardwalk with the nonprofit Sustainable Long Island group, which focuses on community economic development.

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