Long Islanders Share Memories of Long Beach Boardwalk
Residents called century-old walkway the "heart of the city."
That was evident on Saturday when a large crowd of people poured into a city-hosted ceremony to commemorate the century-old structure that Hurricane Sandy collapsed and crippled parts of its latest development, rendering it unsound. The ceremony, held at the beach parking lot at Grand Boulevard, left many of its attendees nostalgic as they said farewell.
“I came as a Long Islander,”
said Greg Packer of Huntington.
“If it affects one community, it affects every community.”
Mike Jerchower of Oceanside attended the commemoration with his two children, Maia and Matt, to say one last goodbye. As a family, they enjoyed bike riding and going to the arts and crafts fairs on the 2.2-mile structure.
“The boardwalk is the life of the surrounding communities, not just Long Beach,” Jerchower said. “People come from all over the South Shore and the country.”
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City officials said it will take about a month to demolish and remove the entire boardwalk, a project a Farmingdale construction company is performing to the tune of $1.4 million. But while some officials said the goal is to rebuild a new boardwalk by the summer, at a cost of $25 million, others, such as the city manger, haven’t placed a timetable on its redevelopment. The wooden walkway and its reconstruction, though, are most important to the people who reside in the beach town.
Karin Bailey, who has lived in Long Beach for 26 years, said the boardwalk has been a monumental part of her life.
“I was married in my backyard, which is only a block away from here,” she said at Saturday’s ceremony. “I taught my children how to ride their bicycles on the boardwalk.”
Marti Renoud-DiPaola, a self-described Long Beach “lifer,” said that almost all of her fondest memories in town involve the boardwalk.
“The boardwalk is just a constant in everything in Long Beach,” she said. “I trained for the marathon on the boardwalk, I strolled my children on the boardwalk, my family walked on the boardwalk on holidays. It was a tradition.”
Renoud-DiPaola noted that although the roof of her house was ripped up and she had some flooding during the hurricane, she felt she was lucky compared to some of her neighbors who lost everything in their homes.
Some of her fellow Long Beach residents, such as Noreen Duffy, automatically think of the large events that take place on the beach and boardwalk each year, from the Michelle O’Neill Foundation’s volleyball tournament in September that benefits children with cancer, to the Long Beach Polar Bear Club Splash, held every Super Bowl Sunday to support the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Both events attract many thousands of people.
“The boardwalk is the heart of the city and I hope it can be rebuilt,” Duffy said.
The city offered 2-by-4-inch pieces of the boardwalk as souvenirs to anyone who was interested in saving a “little piece of Long Beach’s heart” as memorabilia.
Other attendees, such as Zach Spilberg of Long Beach and Erin Goldfarb of Oceanside, remembered how their hearts were kindled on the boardwalk.
“We walked up to the boardwalk at the end of our first date to watch the sunset,” Goldfarb recalled. “It was the perfect, cheesy culmination to the start of our relationship, and I'll always remember how beautiful that sunset was.”