NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Long Beach will open a four-block section of its new and improved boardwalk on Saturday in a major milestone for Hurricane Sandy recovery.
The original boardwalk was destroyed in storm. The reopening is part of the city’s “Stronger, Smarter, Safer” reconstruction effort, WCBS 880′s Sophia Hall reported.
A ceremony took place Friday morning to introduce the new attraction. The boardwalk will open to the public on Saturday.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, who was in Long Beach the day after Sandy, said at the ceremony that there’s still a lot of work to do to fully recover from the storm — but called this step a victory, 1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon reported.
“We’re like a boxer that’s been knocked down, but Long Beach has gotten up and delivered the knockout punch against Sandy with the completion of this boardwalk,” he said.
Schumer said FEMA will be picking up the tab for most, if not all, of the $44 million price tag.
The new boardwalk is made up of resilient materials, including Brazilian hardwoods and concrete. It also features a retaining wall that will provide protection from future storms.
“It’s made of much stronger material than before, resilient tropical, sustainable hardwood,” City Manager Jack Schnirman told CBS 2’s Dana Tyler.
Many residents are still struggling to rebuild their homes. City officials said the return of a small section of boardwalk is a sign of the progress already being made.
For days, beach patrol officers had to keep eager visitors away, as crews completed final safety inspections. While taking admission fees from beach goers, cashier Diana Liguori told CBS 2′s Tyler she fended off similar requests.
“I’ve only been working about an hour today, people come up to me and say, ‘Oh, I thought it was today.’ One more day, one more day, slowly but surely we’re getting there,” Liguori said.
Longtime visitors said the sight of the new walk makes them nostalgic.
“I’m happy for the town, this is such a great town. I hope they’re able to lure people back and make things the way they were,” said Karen Hofstetter of Ridgewood, N.J.
Long Beach officials are also expected to provide a timeline for the boardwalk’s complete reconstruction. The renovation is estimated to cost $40 million.
The step forward comes in the midst of another Sandy-related battle in the city.
Staff from Long Beach Medical Center will meet with New York state health officials on Friday in an effort to broker a truce in the fight over the hospital’s future.
The hospital has been closed since suffering damage in Hurricane Sandy.
Now Long Beach Medical Center is repaired and is ready for business, but state health officials are refusing to allow it to reopen until it comes up with a better financial plan or merges with another medical center.
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