Residents weigh in on future of the boardwalk

City holds forum to gather ideas for second phase

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The city hosted the first of three public forums on Monday to address the next phase of boardwalk redevelopment, and while only about 50 residents showed up, they had a lot to say, and shared their ideas about the future of the 2.2-mile span.

The city, in a collaborative effort with Sustainable Long Island, a non-profit group that promotes economic development, elected to hold public meetings to gauge the public’s opinions on the second phase of the boardwalk recovery. The meetings were sponsored by an Island Park-based solar energy company, EmPower Solar.

While the first phase dealt with the rebuilding of the structure after it was badly damaged in Hurricane Sandy, the city is now focusing on adding amenities and attractions to the boardwalk. Sustainable Long Island has helped the city with the reconstruction process since December 2012, and held similar community outreach meetings during the first phase.

More than 250 residents came to the meetings the first time around, and more than 2,350 people filled out an online survey, which is an option that is available once again for those who could not make the meetings this week. Amy Engel, Sustainable Long Island’s executive director, said that the organization would compile all the responses it gets at the meetings and online, and present the findings to the City Council in September.

“The process pulled out of everybody what we value about the boardwalk, and enabled a situation where Sustainable Long Island could synthesize what people wanted and deliver it to the designers,” City Manager Jack Schnirman said of the initial meetings. “So while the boardwalk is built, it’s not finished, and that’s what [these meetings are] about. What does it look like in the future?”

The city is exploring the possibility of adding more features to the structure in an effort to make it more of a destination, Engel said, adding that more attractions would not only benefit residents, but also help draw more visitors and drive traffic to local businesses, especially during the notoriously slow winter months. She said that it is important to the city that it balance residents’ interests with those of local business owners in coming up with a plan.

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