A showdown is looming over Borough President Marty Markowitz’s pet project to build a huge $64 million concert arena in a quiet Coney Island park.
With construction set to start on the 8,000-seat amphitheater in Asser Levy Park this summer, community critics are scrambling to block it before it’s too late – charging it will be too loud, big and expensive and will take over the entire park.
“It has more seats than Radio City Music Hall,” said local activist Ida Sanoff, who is leading the charge to derail the plan – and is hoping to hold a protest rally outside Markowitz’s Park Slope home.
“How would he like it in his neighborhood?” she added. “This is a residential neighborhood. It’s not midtown Manhattan.”
Sanoff and a growing group of unhappy residents from nearby residential towers have brought in well-known civil rights attorney Norman Siegel to try to find a way to block the project in court.
The opponents, which include members of two synagogues across from the proposed site, are hoping to get Markowitz to scrap the plan because of the current financial crisis.
“The whole thing is a waste of taxpayers’ money at a time when they are cutting services left and right,” said Temple Beth Abraham President Al Turk. “They could use this money for day care centers, for hospitals, for police.”
The borough president has hosted free outdoor concerts in the Surf Ave. park for nearly two decades from a smaller bandshell.
Markowitz is paying $54 million of the project’s hefty price tag with money from his capital budget. The rest is coming from the mayor and the City Council.
Construction is slated to begin this August and finish by summer of 2012.
Markowitz downplayed the mounting criticism and stood by the project, which will include 5,000 covered seats and 3,000 lawn seats. The project will also pay for rehabilitating the park’s playground and handball courts.
“We’re proud of the money that we’re providing,” said Markowitz. “This will bring pleasure, happiness and pride to the people who live right in that immediate vicinity and for the people of Brooklyn.”
So far, the project has avoided the city’s rigorous approval process because officials say it will not change the use of the park, which already has a much smaller bandshell.
But opponents argue it is being pushed through without any review.
“This is an edifice to Marty Markowitz,” said New York City Park Advocates Director Geoffrey Croft, who is also protesting the plan. “It’s a behind-closed-door deal.”
Mendy Sontag, president of the Sea Breeze Jewish Center across the street from the planned project, said concerts would disrupt religious services – particularly on Fridays and Saturdays.
“It’s very offensive,” said Sontag, adding that his synagogue has learned to live with Markowitz’s six free concerts each summer on Thursday nights.
“When they have a concert, we can’t even have a service. Your windows feel like they are going to shatter when the music starts blaring.”
Markowitz said it is too soon to know who will operate the site, let alone the venue’s schedule. But he insisted that community concerns such as Sontag’s would be taken into consideration.
“Of course, we have to be sensitive to the community’s concerns,” he said.
BY Elizabeth Hays