N.Y. Town's Sandy-Battered, Century-Old Boardwalk Faces Demolition

Official hope to have the boardwalk reconstructed in time for the summer season

Workers will begin to demolish the famed century-old boardwalk in Long Beach, N.Y., on Saturday, months after it was battered beyond repair by Superstorm Sandy, city officials said Wednesday.

The city council for the Long Island city, just miles from New York City, decided to tear down the entire structure last month, after Sandy badly damaged its two-mile beachfront stretch of wood and concrete.

"It looks like King Kong came in and ripped up the whole place," said Barbara Herr, who has visited Long Beach for 15 years.

An American flag and a holiday wreath hang on a pile of twisted wood in one of the boardwalk's hardest hit areas. The boardwalk has been closed since the storm, and while not every inch was destroyed by Sandy, city officials thought it best to demolish all of it.

"To be prudent, it's better to look at the entire boardwalk, take the whole thing down and rebuild stronger and smarter," said city councilman Scott J. Mandel.

The demolition should take about a month, said Mandel. The reconstruction is expected to be finished by the start of the all important summer season, Mandel added.

The estimated cost of the project is $25 million. Long Beach hopes to recoup the entire amount from Federal Emergency Management Agency, Mandel said. But the city decided to move ahead before securing any funding guarantee.

"Long Beach is known for its boardwalk," Mandel explained. "So, this is a symbol that Long Beach will recover from Sandy."

The boardwalk was first built in 1907, as Long Beach's founders looked to create a destination to rival Atlantic City. Elephants from New York's Coney Island were used during the original construction, said city historian Roberta Fiore.

At first, the boardwalk was private, Fiore added. Visitors needed to secure a special invitation to enjoy the boardwalk and its adjoining amenities, like tennis courts.

Parts of the boardwalk were rebuilt in the late 1930s after a fire, Fiore said. Since then, the boardwalk has survived numerous storms and hurricanes, remaining the focal point of the waterfront community.

"Our boardwalk has always been the alpha and the omega of the city of Long Beach," Fiore explained.

A special ceremony attended by city officials and residents will mark the start of demolition Saturday.

"It's part of their heritage, part of them, part of their blood," said Terri Powers, of the nearby town of Oceanside, N.Y., who has been walking the boardwalk for three decades.

"I look forward to walking here again," added Kevin McCormack of nearby Lynbrook, N.Y., as he took pictures of what was left of the boardwalk.

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