Long Beach looks exactly as you would expect a historic beach community near a major metropolis to look. It has a few very old hotels, plus lots of beach houses and year-round homes. There’s the funky-chic downtown street that runs parallel to the beach, the central town hall area, and tall apartment buildings lining the beautiful beach and boardwalk.
I live nearby and I visit Long Beach often. It reminds me of happy family summers at my grandparents’ beach house on Fire Island. I power-walk on the boardwalk; I’ve learned to avoid the speeding skateboarders and cyclists; and I eventually walked the entire 4 ½ mile round-trip on the boardwalk as I lost 85 pounds.
Summer and winter feel very different on the boardwalk. Summers, of course, are carefree, golden, playful, hot and crowded. Winters are thoughtful, vast, blue, and a little wistful.
Just over a year ago, Hurricane Sandy struck the area. The main street was covered with sand that had washed up several blocks’ distance in the flooding from the ocean. Long Beach was without power or services for many days, and the island was closed to outsiders.
The devastation was heartbreaking. The beautiful boardwalk that so many people had enjoyed was smashed, crooked and hazardous. There was nothing left of it. Many buildings were terribly damaged. Piles of bulldozed sand filled vacant lots. A high new sand berm ran along most of the beach, blocking the ocean view.
A year later, large portions of the boardwalk are restored and built much stronger than before. The rest of the boardwalk will be rebuilt too. The damage to buildings has been largely repaired.
Christmas lights are now up on the vintage-style boardwalk lamps. These decorations are shaped like seahorses, starfish, dolphins, surfboards and seagulls as well as snowmen and snowflakes. The evening I took this picture, the snow was falling and a few other hardy souls had come out to enjoy the quiet, the solitude and the whispering ocean.
Long Beach is going to be just fine.