Screwin’ Ain’t Easy – An update and solicition for opinions on Screw the Boardwalk

First off, I want to thank Anthony and the rest of the folks here at Sea by the City for loaning us this platform to give you all an update.  For those who know, the concept behind Screw the Boardwalk originated on the pages of this blog, so it’s only fitting that it continues on here in some way shape or form.

Anywho, below is what constitutes my very much overdue – and rather wordy – update on where things stand with the Screw the Boardwalk initiative.  My apologies for it taking so long, but there were a number of factors I needed to get ironed out before going back to you, the people, to solicit your thoughts.

Here we go:

First and foremost, the City is 100% behind this and wants to figure out a way to engage residents in restoring the boardwalk to its former glory (not that I know when that was, but I’m sure the boardwalk was glorious at some point in time).  That said there are definitely some issues to figure out and hurdles to overcome, many of which I’ll outline for you here.  When you’re done reading, I would love get your thoughts on how to proceed.  This is, after all, a ‘grassroots’ effort.  I might be driving the car, but I’m counting on all of you for directions.  Please, please, pleeeeease share your thoughts either in the comments section below, or over on the Screw the Boardwalk Facebook page.

  1. There are insurance issues.  Yes, everyone doing work will need to sign some sort of waiver absolving the city of any liability should you get hurt.  Even with that being the case though, the City is concerned about the inherent dangerous nature of this work.  You know, people doing work 12-14 feet up with no safely nets and the such.   We can figure out ways to work around this.
  2. There are ‘quality of work’ issues.  The City is going to be held liable for any and all work done on the boardwalk.  The onus is on them to make sure all work meets City approval and standards.  This means we’ll have to be well supervised.  Like issue #1, we can clear this hurdle, I think.
  3. Here’s the big one.  We all want better wood and we want to screw the sh*t out of the boardwalk, right?  Well, there’s this little group called the Army Corp of Engineers that’s out there, and they’ve got a plan that, if approved, would involve ripping up the whole boardwalk, replacing it, building up higher sand dunes and a whole slew of other measures that would serve to protect our fair city from the next big hurricane, tsunami or zombie apocalypse.

Long Beach has been down this road before.  The plan was basically rejected by the City some years back and has been stalled out since.  We’re not here to debate the merits of said plan.  I know it’s controversial.  What I am here to say, however, is that the city isn’t looking to invest big money in buying better boards and start screwing the boardwalk until they know if it’s going to be torn down by the Army Corp, and that decision won’t be made for another year or two.

Personally, I can’t blame them.  Why spend a ton of money on something that might get ripped up in pretty short order?  I wouldn’t waste my money on that and I guess the City doesn’t want to waste theirs (I mean, ours) on it either.

So here’s where we stand.

The City has offered to give us a trial run in September once all those pesky out of towners finally leave us alone.  They’ll break us up into smaller crews and we’ll get to have at it.  Only problem is, we’ll be NAILING the boardwalk, not SCREWING it.  And we’ll be using the same wood they’re currently using to replace boards.  Again, why should the City waste money if the whole thing has the potential to be ripped up?

That said (and I know you can all attest to this) damn near all the boards on the boardwalk need to be replaced, so we could make some serious progress in improving the condition of the boardwalk in the near-term while others choose to debate the relative merits of the Army Corp’s plan and whether we’ll see whole sale changes made in the future.  If we move forward with the City’s offer, they’ll essentially be using it as a trial run for a much larger event once a final decision gets made on the plan.

So what do you say people?  Disappointed you won’t get to screw?  I am, but I’m also happy to nail since I know it will help make some progress until a final decision is made.

Do we move forward and embrace a new mantra of Nail the Boardwalk, or do we say, “Screw it”.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Much thanks,

John and the committee to Screw (and/or Nail) the Boardwalk


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25 thoughts on “Screwin’ Ain’t Easy – An update and solicition for opinions on Screw the Boardwalk”

  1. A total waste of time and energy which will solve nothing.

    The answer lies in ridding the boardwalk of all of the motor vehicles which it was never designed to carry. This is a stupid feel good PR effort that will not address the problem any better than Bruce Nyman’s turning loose a dozen teenagers with hammers and nails and randomly hammering nails into the boardwalk.

  2. Nail it, screw it just make it smooth. I defer to all those children in strollers and those, like myself, that use a mobility device rolling over those boards that will loosen your teeth. I’ll not go into any anatomical references just for the sake of argument. It hurts.

    I used to road race and practice on the Boardwalk. It was smooth at one time. I did not need to go to Buddy’s other than for air. Now I would need a tube change every other week.

    LB is a wonderful City full of generous people willing to give their time and expertise. If you make the Screw the Boardwalk a “Habitat for Humanity” type event, ensure our potential Bob Vila’s sign a liability release in case they nail their thumbs your endeavors will make a HUGE difference.

    Thank you on behalf of my anatomical non-mentionable.

  3. true story. it’s not been curtailed as much as we’d like, but they’ve definitely reduced the amount of vehicular traffic on the boardwalk due to, you know, the stupid feel good PR effort. Public Works is actively retrofitting their smaller vehicles so they can carry more lumber, tools and supplies so that they won’t have to use trucks to support their workers. And the police are suppose to have stopped using the boardwalk as frequently, but i’ve not yet seen them reduce truck patrols as much as they claim to have. nonetheless, it’s progress.

  4. Kayo, very positive. Nicely worded. It’s not going to “solve” anything, but it very well could “improve” a variety of things, and that sounds like a decent use of time and effort.

    John, I would guess the Army Corps plan will probably have to happen at some point as the result of imminent environmental threats, but I’d say embrace the chance to show the City (the Tick’s home?) that the initiative can help the area. If they let you work on a few sections to see how it all works and looks when it’s done, that’s a start. Marathons aren’t won and lost in the first few steps.

  5. Hey, Karla. It’s basically because the wood being used, both decking and joists, is too soft. Screw or nails, the wood us going to bow and warp. The problem with using screws with this wood is that they’ll splinter the boards more easily and create more of a hazard once the wood bows or warps. And when that’s the case, screws are then harder to remove.

    When the city does decide to go with harder wood – be it through Army Corp or on their own – screws will be used.

    That sufficiently answer your question?

  6. Since the Army Corp of Engineers proposal is controversial, at best, my thinking is it will be much more than 2 years before they touch the boardwalk. (There is that pesty matter of them wanting to raise the level of the beach and boardwalk, which would effectively put the first floor and possibly the second floor of all the buildings on the south side of Shore Road and Broadway beneath the surface.)

    So we have been using inferior wood for years and the City proposes to continue wasting money on inferior wood and deferring a decision for another indefinite period of time. Personally, I think you met a really slick politician, lots of double talk and no solid action. And, John, I am NOT criticizing you or your efforts. You have done a great deal of good just getting the various departments to reduce the vehicular traffic.

  7. While I am so thrilled at the concept of screwing the boardwalk or nailing the boardwalk, Why do I feel like I am being “nailed” and “screwed” by the city?
    I am paying my taxes on my residence and businesses yet I am also going to donate my time to fix the boardwalk that I am already paying to maintain?
    I want to help, but maybe we can meet on the boardwalk and take photos and give a glossy report to the city manager, head of public works, ALL maintenance employees and give them a 45 day timeline to show us, why we should not downsize and FIRE ALL of them.

    Then we can all volunteer on day 46, the day after the people we are paying to maintain the boardwalk are no longer employed to do that job….

    I want to volunteer, but in the same time whoever you met with form the city, could have called in the head of maintenance, a few supervisors, explained to them that they are awful at their jobs and they better turn around the boardwalk ASAP or figure out where they will be working.

    Anyone notice that NO one thought it was a good idea to paint the lines for the bike lane this year?

    Anyone notice how few “BIKES ONLY” signs there are? Yes, you have those useless indistinguishable “pictures” but very few written warnings for tourists.

    Anyone notice the fascia board missing over the women’s main bathroom next to the ice cream stand on riverside and the boardwalk? the holes in the privacy wall leading to the bathrooms? Pathetic property management services….

    Anyone notice the rusty unpainted railings all down the boardwalk?

    Who are we paying to do nothing?

  8. A pilot hole for the screw to enter would prevent splintering. A screw would not pop up like nails do and can be backed out if the board needs to be replaced.

  9. I Love the City,
    A boardwalk group is not unlike a neighborhood association in that both work towards preserving their designated area for residents, visitors, the environment and future. A neighborhood assoc might go out and plant, sweep, fix, clean, paint, educate and work alongside the city. The same this is happening here with the start of this Screw the Boardwalk. They want to nail in parts of the boardwalk.

    The bike lanes issue is a tougher subject than you can imagine due to the outdated view that bikes don’t belong on the streets let alone changing traffic patterns to safely fit them onto the streets they have equal rights to. It’s a slow but ongoing conversation. Next summer will be dramatically different.

    I don’t think the railings are rusty. Where?

  10. Thanks, Chris. I don’t take your comments as criticism in any way shape or form. Couple of things I would like to react to though.

    1) This ain’t my first rodeo. A lot of my professional work involves dealing with politicians at all levels of government, be it local, county, state or national. One could say a lot of things about our current City Manager, but I would be hard pressed to define him as a slick politician. No one here knows me personally, but I’ve enough faith in myself to believe that I wouldn’t fall for double talk and no action. I get that sort of stuff a lot and am quite good on calling it out. I mean seriously, I get paid to do so.

    The City could have very well just ignored this effort or made up some excuse for why it couldn’t be done and there wouldn’t be a whole lot I could do about it. That’s not what happened though. They’ve been very proactive in working with me and the meeting that took place a few weeks back included the City Manager, Commissioner of Public Works, two of the City’s lead legal councils and a few others. You don’t pull those folks into a meeting if you don’t intend to try and make something work.

    2) I definitely share your frustration over the ambiguity of when a decision will be made on the Army Corp’s plan. And I think you’re probably right that shovels won’t get into the ground for more than two years…if at all. That said, the current wood being used on the boardwalk has a life span of 7-10 years. Better wood is 4 times more expensive, but has a lifespan of more than 30 years. According to the City’s estimates, something along the lines of 75% of the wood on the boardwalk is more than 25 years old. That means there’s a whole lot of wood that needs replacing now and, personally, I don’t think replacing that wood is a waste of time and/or money. We can’t just let the boardwalk rot until a final decision gets made, especially if we’re making the assumption that such a decision is a number of years away.

    Again though, thanks for your input on this. I’m very much open to follow up dialogue.

  11. I agree with I love this city, the city should be upheld to a higher standard. While I applaud your efforts, I almost think that having a protest of say 100 people on the boardwalk telling the city we want things fixed and/or staff fired would be more effective. I know I would be there for that.

  12. @I love this city – I get your point – and also agree with Allison B’s analogy of likening this to a civic or beautification group – but would like to put a bit more context to this.

    The city is how many millions of dollars in debt? Unless you want your taxes increased further than what’s already being contemplated, there’s going to be cut backs on the services the city provides. I’m not saying their going to ignore the boardwalk. To the contrary, I think the current administration has done more to fix the boardwalk in just the past year than has been done in the entire last decade. That said, it’s basically a never ending job. They have someone out there replacing boards on a daily basis. It’s that person’s sole function. But there’s 18 blocks of boardwalk. 2.5 miles worth.

    Personally, I would rather the city focus it’s resources on other things that only it can do. I’m not saying that citizens should be entirely responsible for maintaining the boardwalk, but if I, along with a bunch of other people, can help get the job done while allowing the city to focus its resources elsewhere and potentially help save us all a little bit of money well, then I’m going to do it.

    You can cite as many examples as you like about how the city is falling apart. But you claim that you want to help. If that’s really the case, here’s your chance. The choice is yours. We’d love to have you.

  13. Right on! John, you should be commended for your efforts. I’m really proud this movement started here on seabythecity. I always wished somebody would take a conversation from this blog an turn it into something productive.

    Some people might think fixing the boardwalk is a waste of time or a waste of money, but with the beach, the boardwalk is the jewel of our city. Our Boardwalk is what makes Long Beach unique. I think it just shows how much we really care about this city an we’re willing to put some time and effort into making it better. Great job John!

  14. JOHN – the city might be millions in debt, but they didn’t lay off a single employee, so why all of a sudden is maintenance PATHETIC around the city of Long Beach?
    I was not referring to the bike lanes on the street, I was referring to the bike lanes on the boardwalk. There are 2 or 3 “BIKES ONLY” painted on the boardwalk in the bike lanes, there used to be a lot more.
    I understand the city is going through financial troubles and my taxes will reflect it this coming year.
    This is nothing like a civic association or a neighborhood group, you are actually doing their job for them, not working along side them, you are replacing their job duties.
    I commend your idea and your actions, but it is another glaring example of pathetic city management and city council.
    What duties will the maintenance department concentrate on while you do their job on the boardwalk?
    I understand your point, but it just gives the city of long beach another pass on them being incompetent and useless…
    If this is the jewel and the masterpiece of Long Beach then the city should act that way and get it done. The same way you can “screw” or “nail” a board so can they and they are getting paid well to do so….
    Just because they are bad at their jobs does not mean someone should volunteer to do it for them, get rid of them and lets get a crew that can accomplish what they were hired to do…

  15. John, Did either the City Manager or Director of Public Works (both having less than a 9 month tenure here in LB) or the legal eagles mention the discussions with the Army Corp of Engineers has been ongoing since 1986 and the most recent iteration in 2006 actually was focused on the bayside? The residents rejected the ACE’s proposals at least twice that I am aware of and there has not been any new proposal, so I don’t think we should give it any further consideration today. If we are willing to provide the necessary labor that should free up budgeted money for better quality materials.

    There have been suggestions made by well qualified carpenters who know the different types of wood that are at odds with the DPW. Once an analysis has been made of how many board feet of lumber is needed to do a significant improvement, it may be possible to bypass the normal channels of procurement and buy directly from a wholesaler, at a significant savings. That too would free up money to do the job in a better fashion than we currently do it.

    Again, I do not mean to sound critical, but I think you were given a politically expedient answer, not necessarily a fiscally expedient answer. I too feel the boardwalk is too important to the city to allow it to deteriorate any further.

    Thanks again for getting this off the ground.

  16. The problem with something like the Army Corps of Engineers’ proposal waiting in the wings is that it feels wasteful to take definitive boardwalk action in the meantime, given that they might swoop in and tear down everything in a couple of years–assuming that is indeed a possibility. So, does this mean until ACE is resolved, the boardwalk cannot be dramatically improved? Also, I was under the impression that the ACE proposal was thoroughly rejected and is gone bye-bye. Am I wrong about this?

  17. Regarding the general idea of volunteering to help do a job other people are paid to do: This is not uncommon. Hospitals have volunteers, despite a highly paid staff; we have volunteer firefighters (some municipalities have only volunteer firefighters); we have volunteers at the animal shelter; we have volunteers in the schools. For some people fixing things is fun, and it can be satisfying to invest your time in the place where you live, especially for a group project like this one. I envision this kinda like a barn raising, going horizontal.

  18. I understand everyone’s examples of volunteers. But so far every example people have given sounds to me like the people getting paid to do a job are doing their jobs and the volunteer is helping or doing a job the paid person is not getting paid to perform.

    1 – Hospital – the volunteer is not doing the job of a Dr. or a nurse. Most of the time they are giving out information or bringing flowers or doing something not related to medicine or someone else’s job!
    2- volunteer firefighters – like you said some communities only have volunteers, so not a good example if there are ONLY volunteers. Long Beach’s volunteer firefighter’s work alongside the paid guys and if you ask me sometimes you can see maybe it is not such an equitable relationship, I am also positive if at some point we did go “all” volunteer, you would see how fast the LBFD would RALLY against it. Also someone has mentioned the Long Beach volunteers get pension “credits”, I will have to double check, but if you receive a pension, even a small one, are you really a volunteer?
    3- Animal Shelter – Same as hospital – you are doing job duties the “paid” staff would not be doing, or you would be doing it along side them. As an aside if you volunteer at the Town of Hempstead animal shelter you will be working along 7+ people making over $100,000 a year. So I would also NOT volunteer my time there…..
    4 – Public Schools – PTA? maybe a parent going on a school trip to help out? You do not see volunteer teachers or custodians because the UNIONS would be very upset. The volunteers are “extra” help, or doing a job someone is not getting paid to do.

    So now we get back to the Long Beach Crew. We have been talking about this boardwalk deteriorating for years and it very rarely sees any improvement. This year has been remarkably “quiet” on the boardwalk. The “stripes” for the bike lane have not been painted. The city keeps talking about maintenance and upkeep issues, IF we have layoffs. Well, We didn’t have any layoffs yet and the city, including the boardwalk, is dirtier and less kept than ever! You can tell that the city manager and head of DPW have little experience when it comes to the day to day management of a city. Politically maybe they are geniuses, but management and cleanliness? the city looks HORRIBLE this season.

    I constantly take photos and document the same issues that “sit” and linger for months and nothing is done. Holes in the street that are dangerous, boards missing on walls, unsightly walls that need painting, the list goes on and on and nothing is or has been getting done about it.

    So again, I understand volunteering and I would be there giving my time and energy and possibly even money – IF we were not paying people VERY WELL to already do this EXACT job!! Get rid of the paid boardwalk maintenance staff and let’s go ALL volunteer! That I will be part of. Government has a great track record of creating “issues” to justify staffing levels and/or tax increases. If the city “wanted” to and had the knowledge to get it done, the boardwalk can be repaired in relatively short time and at a minimal cost, EVEN WITH SCREWS!!

  19. All – To the best of my knowledge, the ACE plan was ‘tabled’ however many years back and my impression is that it’s not dead…and that it’s not just limited to the bayside. Much more than that, I don’t really know. Just know that the city said they would know one way or the other in a year or so. I’ll keep pressing them on this in an attempt to get to the bottom of things.

    @chrispeck – I’ve reached out to the city for clarity and greater explanation as to why their not willing to at least do minor upgrades in technique (and supplies) and am awaiting a reply. Will report back once I get one.

    @I love this city – I’m most definitely not looking to become a mouth piece for the city, but know they’ve made layoffs and that most of them were to CSEA members who just happen to be the exact folks tasked with boardwalk duties. I think the number was 20 FT employees and 40 something PT’ers. It added up to $2.5 million in salary reductions.

    For what it’s worth, and as i stated above, I believe the city has made more progress on the boardwalk over just the past year than had been made over the previous decade. Again though, I’m really not looking to be a mouthpiece for the city.

    As to your overall points about the appropriateness of residents doing this work, well, I fully understand them and respect your opinions. It speaks to the larger conversation that’s happening around the country about the role and size of government and I think it’s a discussion that’s worth having. That said, I’m going to have to disagree with you in this particular instance. If this was the city itself going out with a call for volunteers it might be a different story, but this was a call by residents asking the city to let us help. Quite simply, all they’re doing is allowing us to do so. One could argue the larger philosophical point, but I think it would be wrong to do so. The city is listening to its residents and trying to honor a request. In my opinion, that’s an appropriate role for government to play.

  20. I will have to double check. But, if memory serves me correctly in the end, the CSEA gave some concessions to the agreement and ALL layoffs were spared. So they have not lost a single city employee to layoffs this year.
    I believe in your cause, but I believe the city should first have to answer for their failings before we succeed at their job….
    I am sure I can help make your cause a definite success, but we pay many people very well, from management down through labor, and NO ONE seems to be effective at maintaining this wonderful city, especially the boardwalk…

  21. John, the short story behind the ACE proposals: there were 2 different proposals, one regarding the oceanside, which was reworked and tweaked a few times and finally rejected by the residents. It would have raised the boardwalk and beach as well as filled in the ocean floor between the groins It probably made sense from a pure engineering perspective but it would have greatly changed the face of our beach and boardwalk and probably ruined the surfing. This was voted down by the residents of the city. The other proposal was with regard to the bayside and some parts of it have been implemented I know the drainage caps were installed and work done in the canals to help with flooding. I am not sure if the bulkheads were ever raised as suggested.
    In light of the new construction along the boardwalk since the plan was voted down and the increase in the number of surfers we have using our beaches, it seems unlikely it would be any more popular today.

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