2013-09-06 / Front Page

Intelligent Design?

New Company Picked For Boardwalk Build
By Kevin Boyle

McLaren is out, CH2M Hill is in.

Among locals who want a say in what the next boardwalk looks like, that is sure to be considered a good news, not-so good news development.

The good news is that McLaren Engineering, the company that delivered controversial lifeguard and comfort stations and questionable design features to the short-term boardwalk, is out.

The not-so good news is that a new company has been selected. Its very selection does not sit well with some who demanded a say in which design team was picked for the new, full boardwalk rebuild.

Community activist, Joe Hartigan, said, “All applicants for the job of designing the new boardwalk should have made their proposals in front of the community at Beach Channel High School.”

A little history: In the rush to get beaches and concession stands open by Memorial Day, the Department of Design and Construction (DDC), in consultation with the Parks Department, chose McLaren Engineering to lead the rebuild. That decision was made in late December, 2012 and revealed to the Community Board on January 8th, 2013.

From that choice sprung one controversy after another. The costly lifeguard and comfort stations were hailed as architectural achievements by some and mocked by others. By the end of the summer season, critics had more than design to deride. The units were found to be leaking, rusting and often out of service.

The shade structures installed on the boardwalk islands are rusting as well. Before the rust appeared, these same structures were problematic to some. On opening day of the beach season it was pointed out that the structures created a bottleneck in front of the concessions and precluded any chance of a bike lane. Even new benches that seemed a nice touch because they were replicas of seating at the 1964 World’s Fair are now rusting.

As The Wave has reported, complaints have been long and loud.

Most recently, the Friends of Rockaway Beach and others called upon the City to include Rockaway representatives in the decision to select a design company which will do the complete boardwalk rebuild. That request was not heeded as the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) – taking over from DDC – announced CH2M Hill as the winner of a Request for Proposals (RFP) issued in July.

CH2M Hill has its headquarters in Colorado but also has offices on six continents. The company has designed a vast assortment of projects from sports stadiums to government buildings. In 2012, CH2M Hill was chosen by Qatar to design and build venues for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The Wave has been told that the new design team, Parks, and the Army Corps of Engineers will meet next week. One of the topics likely to be discussed is the inclusion of a seawall in a new boardwalk design. The Army Corps has said a seawall could have an impact on the Reformulation Study it is now conducting and could jeopardize other beach protection measures, such as jetties. The Army Corps has said part of its study is a cost/benefit analysis and a seawall could, in theory, change its plans.

The seawall (or exclusion of one) and other matters will be revealed at a public meeting now scheduled for Tuesday, September 17th. The Parks Department has said a final design will only come about after more community input.

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