A.C. puts another piece of its Boardwalk back together

The newly rennovated inlet boardwalk. Atlantic City, NJ. October 12, 2017

ATLANTIC CITY — Naturally, the wind was gusting off the inlet, and waves were splashing over a nearby seawall. It was easy to remember  when the inlet crashed over the long-decrepit section of Boardwalk and flooded onto New Hampshire Avenue and nearby streets during Hurricane Sandy.

“We’ve been waiting solely for this because of Sandy,” said Blanche Toole, who lives in the Inlet neighborhood.

And there it was, officially unveiled Thursday: two blocks of new Boardwalk, bolstered by a new seawall and a massive new rock jetty running parallel to the walkway from Madison to Melrose Avenues, $4.1 million out of a $50 million reconstruction project that will finally link the Boardwalk along the inlet all the way to Gardner’s Basin (think breakfast at Gilchrist’s). The project has been on various drawing boards since 1996.

“You may think this is the worst day for this,” said Mayor Don Guardian as 25 mph winds howled from the northeast.  “It’s actually the best day. When you see the fiery Atlantic Ocean beating down on our beaches, you’ll see it’s the rock wall that will protect us.”

This section of Boardwalk, which fronts McClintock Park and an empty parcel that was once the famous seafood restaurant Hackney‘s, does not yet link up with the part running along the ocean, but officials say it will by spring.

The most famously storm-ravaged section of the Boardwalk — a section Guardian dubbed the “Al Roker section”  because of the erroneous reports after Sandy that the entire Boardwalk had been destroyed — remains under construction. It broke apart during Sandy and floated onto Atlantic Avenue, providing excellent but misleading visuals. That section was already been closed and in disrepair in 2012 when Sandy hit. But this spring, it will finally reopen.

Guardian said the owners of the Hackney’s parcel have been awaiting the new seawall protection before deciding whether to rebuild the old Atlantic City landmark.

Lt. Col. Kristen Dahle of the Army Corps of Engineers said the new seawall consists of a steel sheet pile fronted by a large stone revetment. She said the capstone in this section weighs between 3 and 5 tons and required 1,800 stones to complete. “Stacked up, this stone would be higher than Mount Everest, reaching over 32,000 feet,” she said.

She said workers likened the placement to “completing a very difficult jigsaw puzzle.” Each stone had to be positioned so that it touched another stone in five places, she said.

Toole noted the new section, with a rectangular area jutting out for fishing, was the perfect place to take in a sunrise over the ocean, looking down toward where the Boardwalk curves around. “At 6:45 a.m.,” she noted of one day this week. “It’s so beautiful.”