Today’s news:

Marty’s prison labor! Beep’s concert series gets inmates to cut costs

The Brooklyn Paper

Call it Marty’s “con”-cert series.

Two busloads of prisoners from Rikers Island — wearing matching red- and white-striped jumpsuits — have been setting up and breaking for Borough President Markowitz’s controversial concerts in Coney Island’s Asser Levy Park.

The inmates aren’t a threat to public safety, according to the city — but they are a heck of a bargain for Markowitz.

“It saves me money, that’s the motivation for having them!” said Debra Garcia, who is in charge of the Beep’s concerts. “It saves about a few thousand dollars a week.”

Under the “Cool Hand Luke”-style program, the inmates set up 2,000 seats at the front of the park’s bandshell near Surf Avenue and West Fifth Street hours before the show. The next morning, the inmates are returned to the spot to collect the chairs.

The work detail for prisoners — which also takes place at Wingate Field in Crown Heights as part of Markowitz’s Martin Luther King Jr. concert series — appears to be the only one of its kind in Brooklyn.

A Department of Correction official said that there are only two other chain gang-style work crews in the city — both near Rikers Island.

Markowitz had taken advantage of the discounted labor-in-chains through the state prison system for at least the last 15 years, beginning when he was a state senator. But that font of labor ran dry this year as part of state budget cutbacks.

“The total cost is typically more than $60,000 a crew,” explained Erik Kriss, a spokesman with the state’s Department of Correctional Services, explaining why the program was cut.

After the state cutback, Markowitz went to the city’s jail system for help setting up his weekly music extravaganzas, which this year have featured George Thorogood and the Beach Boys.

It is unclear why Markowitz’s concerts are the only events in Brooklyn that get the benefit of prison labor.

But there is no doubt that the concerts have highlighted the Beep’s political savvy and influence — it was only three months ago that Mayor Bloomberg scrambled to pass a temporary measure that allowed the shows to proceed, despite an apparent violation of city law barring amplified noise within 500 feet of a house of worship.

Some critics of the concerts saw the work crews as yet another example of Markowitz’s lack of respect for the community surrounding Asser Levy Park.

“It’s insane!” said Mendy Sontag, the president of the Sea Breeze Jewish Center, which faces the park. “You got women walking with kids in the morning, and you don’t know what the prisoners are in for.”

A Department of Correction spokesman said that the inmates are “low-security-risk inmates carefully selected … and carefully monitored.”

But even those who weren’t spooked by the inmates said that there are certainly people who would like to get paid to do the same job.

“It’s nice the prisoners give something back to society,” said Ida Sanoff, an opponent of Markowitz’s larger plan to expand the bandshell into a $64-million amphitheater. “But on the other hand, there are a lot of people out of work that would like to get paid — even if just for a couple of days.”

Pin It
Print this story Permalink

Reader Feedback

Joe from Breezy Point says:
Prison labor ? People at Rikers Island are only guilty of not having money for bail.

Marty's ceremonial job has over 100 do nothing staffers.

Maybe they could be trained to fold up chairs
Aug. 16, 2010, 12:33 am
marty from brighton beach says:
Here we go again. Mr. Markowitz is again showing his disdain for the PUBLIC.And Public Safety.
As long as Marty gets what Marty wants it's OK.
Why don't his volunteers from CB 13 & others set up the chairs for the concerts.
Marty gets basically slave labor to do it. What a guy !
Aug. 16, 2010, 10:02 am
Outraged from Brooklyn says:
What's wrong with Marty? Has he lost his mind? This is an atrocity that borders on the same mindset that sets the enslavement of people in motion. This is the exploitation of human beings. So whats next, using Rikers Island inmates to construct homes, schools, roads - yet he and his staff collect millions really doing nothing -and in the midst of a recession? shame on you marty! shame!
Aug. 16, 2010, 10:04 am
Dave from Park Slope says:
With all the brib..., er, funding Markowitz's concert series receives from Forest City Ratner, couldn't he afford to create a few local jobs instead of using prison labor? This is yet another in a long line of Markowitz-created embarrassments to Brooklyn. His third term was three terms too many.
Aug. 16, 2010, 10:50 am
george from coney island says:
Marty Markowitz is big talk about jobs, jobs & jobs.
Why didn't he give the opportunity for the teens in Coney Island & other parts of Brooklyn to get these as Summer jobs??? Marty is so full of s**t that's it's disgusting.
Marty you are a BUM !
He talks from both sides of his Big Fat Mouth.
Aug. 16, 2010, 10:58 am
karen from manhattan beach says:
Instead of Marty Markowitz wearing his White Dinner Jacket for his Seaside Concerts , it would be more appropriate for Marty to wear the RED STRIPED jump suit the convict is wearing.
If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck & quacks like a duck.. guess what...IT's a Duck !
Marty you would look much better in Red & White than just White. It fits your personality.
Aug. 16, 2010, 11:46 am
Liz from Astoria says:
Big deal. If they were anywhere else they'd be busting rocks, maintaining highways, picking up little or doing other manual labor. This is like light housework. They should make more extensive use of these kinds of programs. It would save the city $millions.
Aug. 16, 2010, 1:02 pm
daniel from park slope says:
Disgusting
Aug. 16, 2010, 4:41 pm
Thom Payne from Brooklyn Heights says:
At at one of Markowitz's Brooklyn concerts in 1990, the brilliant Curtis Mayfield was struck by falling stage lighting. The cause, according to Markowitz: a "freakish gust of wind". (See: www.nydailynews.com/archives/news/2004/09/06/2004-09-06_freakish_gust_of_wind_curtis.html.) The incident left Mayfield a paraplegic and led to his premature death in 1999.

A NY Times story from 1996 profiling then State Senator Markowitz says that he started using prison laborers after the incident "to keep costs down". (After losing a corporate sponsor and settling a lawsuit by the artist.) The same story recounts Markowitz pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges associated with his unsuccessful 1985 run for Borough President. (See: www.nytimes.com/1996/07/21/nyregion/new-yorkers-co-on-stage-with-senator-impresario.html?sec=&spon=&scp=2&sq=july 21, 1996 markowitz&st=cse.)

In a letter responding to the Times story, a unionized Brooklyn stagehand stated that Markowitz "chooses to take risks with the safety of the performers and audience by employing amateurs—prison inmates—to perform highly skilled jobs". And he called for Markowitz's hiring practices to be "examined closely". (See: www.nytimes.com/1996/08/11/nyregion/l-marty-markowitz-senator-or-social-director-772690.html?scp=3&sq=august 11, 1996 markowitz&st=cse.)

In my opinion, *everything* Markowitz does should be "examined closely"—by the Times, The Brooklyn Paper and all others who aim to protect the public trust.
Aug. 16, 2010, 8:29 pm
Enrique from Manhattan says:
At at one of Markowitz's Brooklyn concerts in 1990, the brilliant Curtis Mayfield was struck by falling stage lighting. The cause, according to Markowitz: a "freakish gust of wind". (See: www.nydailynews.com/archives/news/2004/09/06/2004-09-06_freakish_gust_of_wind_curtis.html.) The incident left Mayfield a paraplegic and led to his premature death in 1999.

A NY Times story from 1996 profiling then State Senator Markowitz says that he started using prison laborers after the incident "to keep costs down". (After losing a corporate sponsor and settling a lawsuit by the artist.) The same story recounts Markowitz pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges associated with his unsuccessful 1985 run for Borough President. (See: www.nytimes.com/1996/07/21/nyregion/new-yorkers-co-on-stage-with-senator-impresario.html?sec=&spon=&scp=2&sq=july 21, 1996 markowitz&st=cse.)

In a letter responding to the Times story, a unionized Brooklyn stagehand stated that Markowitz "chooses to take risks with the safety of the performers and audience by employing amateurs—prison inmates—to perform highly skilled jobs". And he called for Markowitz's hiring practices to be "examined closely". (See: www.nytimes.com/1996/08/11/nyregion/l-marty-markowitz-senator-or-social-director-772690.html?scp=3&sq=august 11, 1996 markowitz&st=cse.)

In my opinion, *everything* Markowitz does should be "examined closely"—by the Times, The Brooklyn Paper and all others who aim to protect the public trust.
Aug. 17, 2010, 11:13 am
Phyllis Turk from Brighton Beach says:
It would have been more lucrative all around as well as for the City, had Marty given Kids looking for Summer Work, a break.
Aug. 17, 2010, 12:21 pm
Mike Curatore from Carroll Gardens says:
The real pity here is that the prison labor is only used by our Borough President for his concert series. Why can't we/he get them to clean our parks, sweep our streets and contribute to our communities-at-large instead of his self-aggrandizing concerts?

At least there's only 3 years left of Marty. Then he will fade into the obscurity that he so dreads and fears. That will really be the ultimate punishment for a man who needs to be liked and yearns to be popular. Ignoring him is a worse fate than calling him out and giving him any attention at all.
Aug. 17, 2010, 12:48 pm
J from Brooklyn says:
Marty's acumen and astute judgment on display once again.
Aug. 17, 2010, 1:52 pm
Maddy from Chelsea says:
What is wrong with people!!!! The money he is saving for using inmate labor is money in your pocket. Remember its your money that runs NY so why do you want to spend more to get less. Keep what you have and be happy that somebody is getting creative.
Aug. 23, 2010, 10:03 am

Enter your comment below

By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:

You agree that you, and not BrooklynPaper.com or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to BrooklynPaper.com the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.

Links