Residents Give Input at Boardwalk Group Meetings
Two more meetings scheduled for Monday and Wednesday.
The second of three focus groups meetings on reconstruction of the Hurricane Sandy-battered Long Beach boardwalk will be held Monday, in an effort to gather community input on the project.
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At the inaugural meetingheld at the Magnolia Community Center last week, some 100 residents who live in the center of town, from the east side of Grant Boulevard to the west side of Long Beach Boulevard, sat together in groups and answered prepared questions, including: “Three things you appreciated about the boardwalk?” and “What is the most important issue facing the future of the boardwalk?”
Residents said they appreciated everything from reading to riding bikes to watching the views on the oceanfront boardwalk, and others expressed hope that new shops and restaurants will line the new structure.
Some residents are more concerned about related safety issues as top priorities, rather than the rebuilding of the walkway. Among them was Ray Ellmer, a lifeguard and former Long Beach zoning board trustee, who told News 12: “We’re talking about a new boardwalk. That’s not important. What’s important is a seawall and a dune to protect life and property from natural disasters such as hurricanes.”
Amy Engel, executive director of Sustainable Long Island, a non-profit environmental organization that is helping the city to facilitate the focus groups, said during her opening remarks at last Wednesday’s meeting that the city is moving quickly on the project because the boardwalk is “an economic driver … It’s so critical to everybody.”
For this reason, some city officials have said the goal is to reconstruct a new boardwalk by the start of the summer season. Moreover, the cost to rebuild the structure is estimated at $25 million, and the city is seeking assistance from different governmental outlets to pay a significant portion of the bill, including as much as 90 percent through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
City officials and Engel have both said that they are gathering community input on the boardwalk and will consider residents' suggestions and insights when a construction firm is hired to rebuild it.
But resident Rob Catell fears the community’s input may fall on deaf ears: “These meetings are nice, but personally I’m concerned it might be more window dressing that actual input as far as what the ultimate decision will be,” Catell told News 12.
Monday’s group meeting will invite residents who live between Nevada Boulevard and the west side of Grand Boulevard, and Wednesday’s meeting will include people living between Maple Boulevard and the eastside of Long Beach Boulevard. The city is also gathering input from a newly created website, LongBeachListens.com, where residents and business owners can fill out surveys on the boardwalk.
City Council President Scott Mandel said the city will take the input from the focus group meetings and online surveys and share their findings at a citywide meeting at City Hall, from 6 to 8 p.m., Feb. 20.
“It’s really going to be an informational type of meeting,” Mandel told LongBeachNY.TV. “It’s going to be an event to let everybody hear the findings and to see what we’ve culled from all the different endeavors to get people’s input.”
He said the city will know more about the timeline of reconstruction once the work to demolish the boardwalk is complete and the integrity and safety of the concrete stanchions are assessed, after which the city can gauge the type of materials that can be used for the new boardwalk.
“It’s really going to depend on what we’re left with and what the finances will provide for,” Mandel said.
The Monday and Wednesday group meetings are from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Magnolia Community Center, at 650 Magnolia Blvd. in Long Beach.