Long Branch Boardwalk Contruction Disrupts Off-Campus Students

Students who live in the University Bluffs and other off-campus residences have been complaining about the construction along the beach of Ocean Avenue throughout the duration of this fall semester.

The construction can be attributed to Superstorm Sandy, which pummeled the East Coast in 2012. The northernmost section of the Long Branch boardwalk, located in Pier Village, survived the storm The older section located further south was not as lucky.

The boardwalk construction commenced in May, just as the spring semester for the 2014 to 2015 school year ended. Not only is the boardwalk being re-erected, but other structures are currently in the building process. “Roadway, boardwalk, retaining wall, bluff, curbs, concession stand, restrooms, lights, railing, access ways down on to the beach are all involved. It’s pretty multifaceted,” said Howard Woolley, the Business Administrator for the city of Long Branch. “It goes far beyond the boardwalk.”

Regardless of the complexity, many Monmouth University students are not happy. “No one said anything about the construction when I signed the lease to my apartment last spring,” said Trevor Rawlik, a senior health studies major, who lives immediately north of the University Bluffs. “This could have possibly affected my decision to maybe live elsewhere this year.”

Rawlik is awoken at approximately 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. almost every morning to the sounds of heavy machinery. “I hear the sounds of jackhammers, Caterpillar equipment, and men talking,” Rawlik said.

“The workers’ equipment can be noisy sometimes, but I’m usually leaving my apartment by then,” said Joe Ruggiero, a junior communication major who lives in the University Bluffs. Off-campus residents, like Ruggiero, leave their apartments early in order to escape the numerous noises heard throughout the day.

The noise is not the only grievance. “It’s an eyesore too,” Rawlik said. “I try to look out my front door and see the ocean, but instead I see a chain-link fence and a crane.” The fence, Rawlik mentioned, runs the length of the construction, which extends from Brighton Avenue to Morris Avenue, the street directly south of Pier Village.

“It would be nice if the fence wasn’t blocking the beach access,” Ruggiero said. Both Rawlik and Ruggiero have to walk three blocks north towards Cottage Place to gain beach admission.

“George Harms Construction Co. is the principal contractor for this job,” Wolley said. “The contract calls for substantial completion of the boardwalk by May of 2016 and completion of the structures adjacent to the boardwalk by July.” George Harms Construction Co. of Howell, NJ won the contract with a $14.4 million bid.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency agreed to reimburse Long Branch for 90 percent of the cost for the comprehensive construction. “FEMA gives municipality funds to rebuild infrastructures after natural disasters,” Woolley said. The city of Long Branch is responsible for the remaining 10 percent. Woolley said that the city is paying extra to make the boardwalk wider, which will cost between $700,000- $800,000. “The boardwalk was too narrow,” Woolley said. The old boardwalk was originally 10 feet wide. The newly reconstructed boardwalk, lying on the footprint of the old path, will range from 16 to 20 feet wide.

“I cannot tell you what the winter weather will be like, but if they (George Harms Construction Co.) get a decent winter, they will be well ahead of that schedule,” Woolley said. “These guys work rain or shine.”

Because of the construction, the city of Long Branch was forced to close portions of Ocean Avenue beach access points such as West End, Brighton Avenue, North Bath Avenue, and South Bath Avenue. “We still had a great beach year regardless of having all of those beaches closed,” Woolley said. “The weather was phenomenal and we have big numbers on the board to catch next year.” Woolley and the rest of the Long Branch municipality hope the new structures spark a surge in beachgoers.

Even though the construction is predicted to last the duration of this school year, Monmouth off-campus residents who live in the area can hope for a mild winter so George Harms Construction Co. can potentially finish earlier than anticipated. “These guys have been tremendous in terms of accommodating walkers and joggers along the beach,” Woolley said.

Students and Long Branch residents alike can look forward to the wider boardwalk along with the other facilities, such as the concession stand and restrooms that will extend all the way north to Pier Village.

PHOTO TAKEN by James Romano