No ‘Coney Island Center’ without environmental study
Borough President Marty Markowitz’s drive to build his new $64 million “Coney Island Center” at Asser Levy Seaside Park will not go forward until an environmental assessment is done.
The mayor’s office confirmed this week that the Design Commission will not vote on the amphitheater project without benefit of the assessment.
Borough Hall had hoped to begin construction on at least part of the park project by now, even though it remains unclear whether the overall plan will ultimately be subjected to the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP).
If it is not, the Design Commission’s vote could be the only approval Markowitz needs to go ahead with his dream project.
Last week, the Design Commission tabled a vote on the issue after opponents of the project pointed out that plans to refurbish and relocate Asser Levy Park’s existing playground were, in fact, part of the much wider effort to construct Markowtiz’s multi-million-dollar concert venue, and transform Asser Levy Park intoa major new hub for outdoor entertainment.
“It was clear that the Design Commission had no idea where this project was,” NYC Park Advocates President Geoffrey Croft said.
The Design Commission will reportedly next convene a hearing on the proposed amphitheater project sometime in January.
While officials at the Department of Parks and Recreation initially indicated that they were working on the environmental assessment, it now appears that the New York City Economic Development Corporation [EDC] will actually be completing the report.
In the offing for months, amphitheater critics now say they are worried about the validity of the environmental assessment.
“Environmental assessments are prepared by paid consultants,” said Ida Sanoff, chair of the Natural Resources Protective Association.“They basically do what they have to do to make it look like a project will have minimal, if any environmental impacts.”
According to Croft, history bears out Sanoff’s concerns.
“As we’ve seen citywide, these documents seem to be there to serve the purposes of the applicant and not the public, and that’s not the way it’s supposed to be,” Croft said.
Mostrecently,Markowitz has characterizedhis “Coney Island Center” aslittle more than a renovation project involving Asser Levy Park’s existing bandshell.
“Renovating it will simply allow free music to continue,” Markowitz says.
That assessment, however, is afar cry from the “world-class venue” and paid shows the borough president openly talked about in Manhattan Beach back in June.
“The future is going to be a mix,” Markowtiz said. “Maybe there’s going to be somebody in the future that’s willing to do free shows %u2013 I hope there is %u2013 I pray that there is. But that venue will be a great location free or for fee as the biggest center of music.”
Sanoff has little confidence that the EDC will be able to produce an objective environmental assessment.
“EDC is a development agency,” Sanoff said. “Do you think that they are going to do anything to hinder development? They could care less about environmental impacts.”
The outspoken critic also questions why, if the Design Commission now says it will not vote on the Coney Island Center without the benefit of an environmental assessment, it gave preliminary approval to the project back in January and May.
“It’s very interesting that the mayor’s office said that the Design Commission will not vote on the plan without the EA,’Sanoff said. “They’ve done exactly that – twice.”
By Joe Maniscalco