The boardwalks will return! But they probably won't all be back this summer and they probably won't all be made from wood. Among the many things Hurricane Sandy left in tatters in its wake were those beachside strips. Strips whose importance can be hard to understate for nearby businesses in both New York and New Jersey. But how quickly they can be restored is an open—and increasingly pressing—question. Because it may not be Christmas yet but Memorial Day is still just around the corner.
Here in New York the city has hired workers to clean up areas of the boardwalk in Coney Island but already the process isn't going as fast as some local workers would like. "The pace needs to pick up," a ticket-taker at the Wonder Wheel told the News. "This park needs to be clean. There won’t be a crowd if it’s not." And the city gets that—but it has bigger priorities. As Brooklyn Parks Commissioner Kevin Jeffrey acknowledges the boardwalk just isn't their chief concern: "There are many issues at the moment that are larger than open space. You’ve got residents without heat or homes and major disruption of services."
Still, while Coney Island should probably get its boardwalk back this summer—the Rockaways may not be so lucky. Last month Mayor Bloomberg told residents out there that he didn't "know that we can reconstruct the boardwalk before this summer" but promised that "it will be done." However when it is, it will be concrete, not wood: "There will be no more wooden boardwalks in Rockaway or anywhere else," he said.
In the Garden State, meanwhile, towns like Seaside Heights are scrambling to get their boardwalks—and with them their residents livelihoods—back before Memorial Day. But at least their boardwalks are likely to be made of the traditional timber. However with much bigger dependencies on summer tourists, they need to get built fast.
"If there's no boardwalk, people aren't going to come this summer," Belmar Mayor Matthew Doherty told the AP after his town approved a $20 million reconstruction effort. "They'll go somewhere else, and if they like it there, they won't be back here. We want to be the first in the race to get things started for the summer."