City approves capital improvement plan

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The capital improvement plan outlines major projects that will be undertaken over the next five years -— $71.2 million for general-fund capital improvements and $38.8 million for sewer and water upgrades. The projects include the Clark Street bulkheads and park, major road repairs, renovating the Indiana Avenue firehouse and a new boardwalk.

"The boardwalk really needs to be maintained, and we would really love to have the ability to do it over with higher-grade materials," said City Manager Charles Theofan.

To pay for the project, the city plans to use $5 million of non-city funding from federal and state sources, and finance the remaining $900,000. According to City Councilman Lenny Remo, Public Works Commissioner Kevin Mulligan has already contacted state and federal representatives, with the hope of obtaining the money by 2011. Remo said that the City Council would then have to approve using the funds for the boardwalk.

While the specifics of the design are yet to be determined, Theofan said the city would consider using harder or synthetic wood that has a longer life span than the wood now being used for repairs. "We're still awaiting the preliminary work of our Coastal engineers, who may have some suggestions as far as design factors to consider," said Theofan, referring to engineers from Coastal Planning and Engineering, the company the city hired for other beachfront and bay projects. He added that they may suggest building dunes or a sea wall under the boardwalk.

In the spring of 2006, the City Council unanimously rejected a $100 million Storm Drainage Reduction Program proposed by the Army Corps of Engineers, which would have included replacing the entire boardwalk. The council voted it down mainly because the plan included dredging new sand from offshore that lacked the fine grain and bright color of Long Beach sand.

Residents have become accustomed to almost nonstop boardwalk repairs in one area or another. "My wife and I tried to ride our bikes on the boardwalk today and were afraid to go over the broken wood and the wood sticking up," Robert Shanley, an avid boardwalk user, said last week. "We were afraid we’d fall off our bikes."

Shanley, who would rather not face vehicular traffic on the streets on his bike, said that the boardwalk is in terrible shape. He noted that with the money he pays each year in taxes, “that boardwalk should be the yellow brick road, paved with gold.”

Local real estate executive Joe Sinnona said that the boardwalk is a pivotal part of the city's infrastructure. "As long as it doesn't affect the taxpayer in a negative way, I'm all for it," Sinnona said of the project.

Resident David Katof, who in the past has contacted legislators to try to bring some attention to the boardwalk’s condition, said that rebuilding it from the ground up is a good idea. But he expressed concerned about what the city plans to do in the interim to address the damage.

"They could do all this patchwork stuff," said Katof of the yearly maintenance by the city, “but there's even stuff that they repaired that's popping up because the under part of the boardwalk is faulty."

Remo said that city crews will continue to routinely repair trouble spots as needed.

According to Theofan, the city would like the project to start no later than 2011. The capital improvement plan can be found on the city's Web site, longbeachny.org.

Comments about this story? JKellard@liherald.com or (516) 569-4000 ext. 213.