Amphitheater critics anticipate hearing

By Joe Maniscalco

Opponents of Borough President Marty Markowitz’s plan to construct a new $64 million amphitheater inside Asser Levy Seaside Park are preparing for an all-important public hearing on the project sometime soon – possibly this month.

The Design Commission tabled a vote on the controversial project last month, and the city later indicated that the group would not render a decision until an Environmental Assessment (EA) is completed.

That assessment is reportedly underway, but it remains unclear when it will be released.

“I seriously doubt [the hearing is] going to be in January,” NYC Parks Advocates President Geoffrey Croft said.

Early indications suggested that a second Design Commission hearing on the amphitheater project might take place as early asJanuary 11 – the updated Design Commission calendar does not reflect that, date, however.

Croft, along with local activist Ida Sanoff, the Friends of Seaside Park and two local synagogues have been leading the fight against the proposed amphitheater, charging the venue, if built, will destroy the community’s quality of life.

“We still have not heard a word about the EA,” Sanoff said. “There is usually a 30-day comment period on these documents, and I am wondering if they are going to pull a fast one – release it a few days before the next Design Commission meeting on January 11, and get it approved then even if the comment period has not expired.”

Borough Hall says that it is happy that the Design Commission has decided to consider the “Coney Island Center” project in its entirety, but could not say when the Environmental Assessment will be completed.

“How is the Design Commission going to review something that no one has a chance to comment on,” Croft wondered.

The Parks Department says that construction of the proposed new venue will not be subjected to the city’s Uniform Land Use Procedure [ULURP] because “it is a continuation of an existing land use.”

Opponents, of course, challenge this view and maintain that the design of the covered 8,000-seat venue and the influx of paid concert-goers it draws will radically alter the park experience.

The city’s concession rules could still trigger ULURP action, however.

“The city is still working with the borough president’s office on a management strategy for the amphitheater,” Parks Department spokesperson Phil Abramson said. “Once we agree on a plan as to whether it will be run by a concessionaire, a determination will be made as to whether ULURP will be required.”

Markowitz, who has produced summer concerts at Asser Levy Park since 1991, has already indicated that he expects a private concert promoter to assume control over the popular series sometime in the future.

Amphitheater opponents say they enjoy Markowitz’s summer concerts, but don’t believe they should be expanded.

“I just hope our copy of the EA does not mysteriously get lost in the mail,” Sanoff said

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