Concerning the Boardwalk (PART II): Splinters, Nails and Raised Boards

In yesterday’s post concerning the boardwalk & thugs, many of you suggested that the real thug was the boardwalk itself. It comes in the form of splinters, loose nails & raised boards. So what’s going on? How long are we going to have to live with this state of the boardwalk? And is it really that bad?

The new gang fancied themselves as the Boardwalk Party during the last election with the sole purpose of fixing the boardwalk. Here we are 7+ months later and the boardwalk is still a mess. Yes, the repairs HAVE been quicker, so I give them credit for that, but there is no chance in hell we’re going to see an entirely new boardwalk anytime soon. That is, unless the city gets some sort of grant or wins the lottery. Does Long Beach have a rich relative who is on their death bed? Perhaps all what Long Beach needs is a sugar daddy? The point is, our city just has no cash to replace the entire boardwalk. I still don’t understand why they can’t just use a harder wood and screws. Can somebody please explain that to me? Whatever…

There is a positive spin to all this, as Allison in the comments of yesterday’s post puts it:

[quote]The way it is now it’s like speed bumps and I’m ok with that. It’s kind of like my street that’s all gnarled up but somewhat slows down people. The boardwalk should be a slow experience, not high-speed and I do believe that could potentially happen with a new one.[/quote]

I have to admit… I kind of agree. Maybe these imperfections are actually keeping it safer. Half the people who are walking on the boardwalk don’t even realize there is a bike lane there to begin with. Can you imagine how dangerous it would be if cyclists road even faster? And about  those raised nails; flat tires keep our local bike shops in business. Those raised nails are good for our local economy!

HA! So yeah, let’s just use a harder wood with screws and call it a day.

28 Replies to “Concerning the Boardwalk (PART II): Splinters, Nails and Raised Boards”

  1. i love the idea of a grass roots effort ! If we did it smartly where a different group was responsible for one block each and coordinated it well, we could get national exposure and perhaps a wealthy benefactor ! Beach maintenance wouldn’t be happy as we could have the whole thing done properly in a year, therefore cancelling the need for their jobs (sitting around chatting).

  2. WestEnd Beautifacation does a great job with planting flowers under trees, the flower boxes on Oceanview, etc. and its all labor and money spent is volentary…. why not a Boardwalk Beautification type of group.

    I used to defend the b’walk and get upset when people complained about tripping and splinters. It is a BOARDwalk after all. However, I noticed some boards the other day that look like the picture above and that is very un-acceptable.

    Like Anthony said… a screw gun and some screws is all that is needed.

  3. westenddude, it is a great idea. You’d think there would be a group like that already. I do think a grass-roots approach might be the best though… If it’s done the right way with deck screws – nothing that rusts. I have a box in my garage – i should test it out.

  4. Just last night I saw a girl take a bad tumble off of a bike because of a raised board on the boardwalk. I have caught my foot more than one raised boards while running. Usually I catch myself and just stumble a little, but once I fell, and I am lucky that I was not seriously hurt. It makes more sense to spend the $ to fix the boardwalk then to pay it out in lawsuits against the City.

  5. There is no reason to approach the repairs of the boardwalk like the city does now by replacing entire sections down- in many instances- to the concrete colums. Wood does not rot out evenly. Even if whole sections were installed at the same time years ago, no way does that mean they all need replacement. Particularly the joists, I’ve seen many cut up and lying in the sand below during renovation projects that could have lasted for decades more. By the way, their worksite below gets covered with hundreds of pulled nails and shards of wood that just vanish in the sand for a while and until storm surges move them onto the beach. You’ve been warned , bare feet. On top of this, they change out the vintage hand rail when there’s nothing wrong with it and install sub par wood hand rails and expensive posts.

    With hundreds of additonal board feet of massive joists and wood posts, all being installed by over a dozen senior beach maintenace workers at a time, it’s no wonder the city’s broke.

    If we replaced on an as needed basis and kept what was still good in place, including the old railing, it would not only be cheaper, it would keep the surface uniformly- in a slightly bumpy- boardwalk kind of way and keep the bikers from getting any faster than they are now.

  6. The wood species used now on the boardwalk looks to me to be cedar. If I’m wrong somebody tell me, I confess I have not crawled around with my nose on the boardwalk, sniffing. The wood that really lasts for uses like this is a tropical hardwood called ipe (EYE-pay), very expensive, not very eco-conscious–the words “tropical hardwood” by definition are not eco-conscious.

    According to decking websites, the US forest lab in Madison WI, conducted a 22 year study and found that the life expectancy of old growth, heartwood cedar–the stuff of your childhood if you are old enough– to be greater than 30 years. The life expectancy of sapwood cedar is less than 11 years. Since old growth cedar is basically unavailable nowadays, sapwood cedar is what boardwalks use.

    The best material in my humble opinion would be a plastic made of recycled plastic bags and lumber shaving, made in the USA; this is what we had our deck made out of. It is only slightly more expensive than cedar and the boardwalk’s benches are made of similar stuff. Our material came with a 25 year guarantee. The company that makes it is the biggest user of recycled plastic bags in the country, they say. And it gives Americans jobs in Pennsylvania.

    A lot of people would not want a “PlasticBoardWalk,” though, even if it’s environmentally the best thing. Not to mention the problem of the transition–some plastic, some wood.

    Screws seem like a good idea but there may be a carpentry reason for nails that we don’t know about, maybe? Wood outdoors expands and contracts far more than the wood inside your house, which does plenty of that already, and this wood has a lot of heavy humans on it. Are nails more forgiving, perhaps? Anybody know? Where’s that guy from This Old House when you need him.

  7. One hot Sunday with the beach packed and lots of bikers out I stumbled upon a maintenance truck nailing down a few boards. WTF? On a busy Sunday? How much o.t. did this crew stack up?

  8. I wrote here previously and everyone seems to have forgotten that the boardwalk was never designed for heavy vehicles in the first place. It was designed for people to walk and bike on, period.

    It appears that every boardwalk nailer has his own pick up truck (there are 5 or 6 of these). They also have two dump trucks and a 10 passenger van. I have seen some of these just cruising back and fourth with the occupants girl watching. 4,000 lb police cars regularly patrol, (at one time it was a Cushman motor scooter.

    Heavy trucks belonging to the eruv repair men, banner on the light poles men, timers for the foot races, electrician who maintain the lighting and power, telephone company, lifeguards and lots of others abound.

    The boardwalk wasn’t designed for any of these. As long as they are permitted to stay, the boardwalk will keep falling apart.

    Screwing the boards down wil do nothing. The Rockaway boardwalk is fastened down with very costly stainless steel screws and is in worse shape than LB’s. The wood fails, not the nails/screws. The wood is yellow pine, pressure treated, not cedar which is a very soft wood.

    If wood is replaced with concrete I doubt that the 60+ year old supporting structure is up to the task of the concrete AND vehicles. Surely the old bones will crumble.

    My creds: I have worked in the construction industry for 43 years and have done every job from apprentice to construction manager in that industry. I lived in and near LB and used the boardwalk for about 62 years.

  9. Thanks for the info. we’re just a bunch of concerned residents just shooting off steam. While screws might not work with the 2x4s our boardwalk currently has, I was thinking that a harder would could be the cure. A while back I posted images of the boardwalk in Fire Island that uses screws and harder wood, so i was hoping that can be mimicked here: LINK.

  10. Kayo, do you know what kind of wood they use on Fire Island? Is it better than what we use? Also, I’ve always wondered why we have so many big trucks and heavy, heavy police cars on the boardwalk. I thought we had cops with bikes?

  11. I have never seen the fire island boardwalks in person. I know that the various communities have boardwalk’s that actually function as sidewalks and paths: They are wood not concrete. Is there a boardwalk in the state Park? I’ve never been there.

    The Rockaway boardwalk is ipe fastened with large stainless steel screws and everything has shaken loose. It’s a very expensive construction and is no better than LB. Veterans Memorial Park by the Rec has a small bay front boardwalk that is ipe fastened with stainless steel deck screws and is in good shape. Credit that to the absence of truck traffic, not the construction materials

    The LB boardwalk repair crew creates more work for themselves every day that they work, driving a large fleet of trucks on and off, and up and down the boardwalk. They drive on at the start of the work day, off and on for AM breaks, lunch, PM breaks 5-6-7 days per week. I witnessed this when I lived for 28 years in an oceanfront building..

    If a private contractor was doing the repairs, the crew would start work at the worksite, and take all breaks there and go home from the worksite, in their own vehicles. The city boardwalk crew travels to and from a building behind the ice rink as many as 6 times daily, using city trucks, city gasoline, and on the city payroll.

    The city goes for replacing the wood with concrete, they will doubtless have to replace the existing understructure. That too was designed for wood deck carrying walking people and bikers. The original boardwalk was built around 1907-9. It was a wood deck over a wood pile structure. All was demolished by the hurricane of 1938. The present boardwalk and it’s concrete bent understructure date to post 1938. It was constructed by The Works Progress Administration (WPA)
    under President Franklin D. Roosevelt

  12. So Kayo, outside of banning use of heavy vehicles on the boardwalk (which i fully agree with) what would you recommend we push the city to do? We’re a bunch of residents honestly willing to chip in and help the city with labor. If its a ban of trucks and help with *gasp* nailing, so be it, but if there’s a better way I would very much like to know. Thanks!

  13. John:
    When Bruce Nyman was city manager he received complaints about loose nails and boards on the boardwalk. He handed several teenagers hammers, and carpenter’s aprons filled with nails and turned them loose with accompanying fanfare to fix the boardwalk. Every time they found a loose board they pounded in nails and added some for good measure. The “repairs” lasted until the next vehicle ran over it and they added more and more nails. It became common to see a dozen or so nails in one 3 inch portion of a 2X4. The 2X4 deck board looked like shredded wheat with a dozen nails in it that weren’t holding anything. The 2X4’s were soft as mush from all of the nails and boards were still loose. It solved nothing.

    I think that turning loose a bunch of amateur’s on a task like this will turn out just like Bruce’s teenager’s
    and would create ammunition for lawyer’s suing The City of LB. I realize that the folks volunteering to do this have the best of intentions, but the answer to the problem lies in eliminating the causes of the damage, rather than stepping up the repairs. The causes are known, someone in City Hall needs to act, sacred cows or no sacred cows.

  14. Sub it out. There are dozens of unemployed, underemployed, and semiretired carpenters/handymen who could use a days pay now and then.

  15. The cheap pine they use often splits on the ends where the nailer is. Far Rockaway uses a much higher grade of wood that takes screws without splitting the grain.

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