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Howard Beach boardwalk needs handicapped-accessible ramp, additional lighting

BY ANGELA MATUA

The Howard Beach boardwalk has been the cause of many headaches in the community and after a reconstruction, some are looking to further improve the 2,000-foot-long cement walkway.

The boardwalk, which begins in Coleman Square in Howard Beach and ends in Hamilton Beach, was in disrepair for many years. After Hurricane Sandy damaged the boardwalk further, residents were no longer allowed to use it.

Repairs were made to the walkway, which was converted from a wooden boardwalk, and finished during the first week of December of last year.

But repairs took longer than anticipated after a dispute broke out between the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) over who owned the land.

DCAS eventually took responsibility and Councilman Eric Ulrich pressed the agency to make repairs.

Salvatore Simonetti, chief of staff for the councilman’s office, is now pushing for more lighting to be installed to make the walkway safer and for a handicapped-accessible ramp to be built at the Coleman Square entrance.

According to Hamilton Beach Association President Roger Gendron, the original scope of the project was just to repair the wooden boardwalk. But when they installed a concrete walkway instead, stairs were constructed on the Howard Beach side. Hamilton Beach’s entrance is a ramp.

Simonetti has reached out to local officials and the Department of Transportation (DOT) to alleviate the problem, but the dispute over who owns that part of the boardwalk has come up again and is making it harder to pinpoint who claims the responsibility of the additional lighting and ramp.

He recently met with DOT officials to walk across the boardwalk and point out where additional lighting can be placed. According to Simonetti, the DOT will work to install lighting, but there is not an exact timeline as to when this project will be completed.

“If someone goes there and realized that it’s not ADA-compliant, they have to turn around and come back and I’m not sure there is much room,” Simonetti said. “It’s difficult to maneuver a wheelchair, even a stroller or a baby carriage if you’re moving in and out to come back.”

Though the process to fully complete the boardwalk has been long and “draining,” Simonetti said the people of Hamilton Beach and Howard Beach have been patient.

“They know that we’re working on it,” Simonetti said. “They’re a wonderful group of people … they’ve been very patient with us and understanding.”

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