I have no idea how many of you have ever set foot in Long Beach, but many Long Island residents and city dwellers have at one time or another walked on the city’s pristine beaches and inviting boardwalk, and enjoyed the invigorating smell of ocean-fresh air. I constantly hear stories about someone’s grandparents or cousins who started out in Long Beach.
I must admit that this column is biased, based on my personal feelings. I grew up in Long Beach. My late wife and I raised two daughters who were educated in the local schools. My parents owned a grocery store in the West End. For 23 years I represented the city in the State Assembly, and when I chaired the Ways and Means Committee, I looked for many ways to find funds for the Long Beach Medical Center.
So it is with a tinge of sadness that I reflect on the city’s current lack of hospital facilities. Long Island has many hospitals to serve its communities. The vast majority of them are within a 20-minute drive from home. Most are first-class operations and offer a wide variety of services.
It isn’t the fault of the Long Beach community that its medical center was heavily damaged by Hurricane Sandy. The historic storm brought death and damage to the entire South Shore. Many people whose homes were destroyed have never returned, and are still living with family or friends or renting temporary housing. It may be that quite a few local residents never used the medical center, but by now the entire town knows it is without a local hospital.
By most estimates, Long Beach is home to 35,000 or more residents. It is on a barrier island that has only three bridges — all of them drawbridges — which complicates travel when there is an emergency. In the summer, thousands of visitors crowd the city, using the beaches, walking the boardwalk and patronizing the restaurants. In short, Long Beach is a resort city, not just the next town over. During the height of the summer season, traffic jams are common, and expected.