City officials said they examined boardwalks in communities including Coney Island and Atlantic City, N.J., which use more durable materials. “We looked at ones that are within our range — we didn’t look at boardwalks that didn’t make sense to look at,” LaCarrubba said. “Atlantic City is built on concrete piles with a same set of stringers and ipe wood. It held up pretty well during the storm, and they had to do very little repair work to that boardwalk. We felt we were very much in the right range when we came up with what the boardwalk will cost.”
When asked how much more ipe (pronounced EE-pay) wood would cost per board than southern yellow pine, LaCarrubba said that those figures are still being worked out. “It costs more initially,” he said, “but … it lasts three to four times longer — 30 to 40 years — and it doesn’t splinter. It’s a big, big difference, and the maintenance expenses are significantly less.”
Councilman John McLaughlin said that there is a $6 million to $8 million difference in the cost of wood alone based on pre-bid estimates. “There are detractors who say we shouldn’t do it, but what’s the alternative?” McLaughlin said. “People are talking about these boardwalks in New Jersey, but they’re comparing apples and oranges. Our boardwalk is quite a bit higher, quite a bit wider and it’s quite a bit longer. There’s a big difference between rebuilding something that’s two feet off the ground compared to something that’s 16 feet off the ground.”
Schnirman said that the city has been in talks with FEMA about the Stafford Act.
“There is no guarantee that FEMA will come through,” Hennessy said. “Schumer said he’d request it, but how do we know that Congress is going to approve it, especially in this political climate?”
Though LaCarrubba acknowledged that the city might have to do some short-term borrowing to cover some of the project’s costs, he expressed confidence that with the help of FEMA, community development block grants, public assistance grants and other funding, most if not all of the cost will be covered.
“I think it will be paid for pretty much in full,” McLaughlin said. “There are plenty of naysayers who say that this is not the way to go, but I think if we can get a boardwalk in by late fall, that would be huge.”