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FEMA Approves Nearly $500M Cash Infusion For Rockaway Boardwalk Rebuild

By Katie Honan | February 11, 2015 5:52pm
 The "W" in "ROCKAWAY" as seen in an aerial rendering of the boardwalk.
The "W" in "ROCKAWAY" as seen in an aerial rendering of the boardwalk.
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Courtest Parks Department

ROCKAWAY BEACH — The federal government has approved a massive cash infusion for rebuilding Rockaway boardwalk nearly doubling the original pricetag on the project, officials said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency approved $480 million to rebuild and repair more than 3 miles of boardwalk destroyed during Hurricane Sandy, including resilient concrete decking, benches, stairs and lighting.

A $199 million grant from FEMA will pay for the cost to elevate the boardwalk above flood level and build a sand barrier to make it stronger for the next storm, according to FEMA. The remainder of the money would be used to complete the project.

Original cost estimates for the boardwalk were around $270 million, according to the Parks Department and the Economic Development Corporation.

It was not clear what caused the price tag to jump.

FEMA signed a "letter of understanding" but are waiting for the city and state to sign off on it, too.

A source familiar with the negotiations said the state had an issue with the letter Tuesday night, and were waiting to hold off on full approval of the letter.

It's not clear what the issue was. A call to the governor's office was not immediately returned. 

The money will be allocated through the state, which will then give it to the city, FEMA said.

A spokeswoman for the city commended the federal government's commitment to the boardwalk project, which is seen as a major resiliency project post-Sandy.

“While the [letter of understanding] has not been completely finalized yet, FEMA’s commitment marks an important step forward for the Rockaways and for a stronger, more resilient NYC," said spokeswoman Amy Spitalnick.

"The new boardwalk will rival the best in the world when it comes to withstanding the effects of climate change, while maintaining Rockaway tradition and providing the community with a key beachfront amenity.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer commended FEMA.

“It’s great news that FEMA has green-lighted this massive federal grant," he said in a statement. "I look forward to the plan being finalized by the city and state, who are now reviewing this offer.”

Repairs on the boardwalk have continued through the winter and the first rebuilt stretch, from Beach 84th to Beach 97th streets, is expected to be open by Memorial Day, the city said.

It has, though, been plagued by delays — from the 2013 government shut down to the protection of the piping plovers — and the full project won't be finished until 2017.

And a design feature to write out "ROCKAWAY" on the boardwalk will be missing the "R" for months, since that portion of the word is in a different construction phase.

If the boardwalk does not cost the full $480 million, the city will work with the community to determine the best ways to apply the remaining money to resiliency projects, an official said.