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Aretha was great — but fans felt dis-R-E-S-P-E-C-T–ed at concert • Brooklyn Paper

Aretha was great — but fans felt dis-R-E-S-P-E-C-T–ed at concert

Summer bummer: Shai Husain traveled all the way from Manhattan to see soul diva Aretha Franklin in concert, only to find out that she couldn’t get inside the concert on Thursday. More than 1,000 people were shut out from the free concert, sponsored by Borough President Markowitz.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

Talk about no R-E-S-P-E-C-T!

More than 1,000 R&B lovers who showed up for Aretha Franklin’s free Aug. 4 concert in Coney Island couldn’t see the songstress in action because the al fresco music hall was too small — and Borough President Markowitz seized on the limitation to again push for his controversial mega-amphitheater in nearby Asser Levy Park.

Markowitz’s popular Seaside Summer Concert Series moved to the W. 21st Street and Surf Avenue parking lot after getting booted from the existing Asser Levy bandshell following a court dispute last year — but the Beep still hopes to build a $64-million concert hall inside the greenspace.

“I wish the [new] venue was large enough to accommodate everyone who wanted to see Aretha [Franklin],” said Markowitz, who estimated that Franklin drew 10,000 fans. “It’s why I feel so strongly that Coney Island should have an amphitheater to establish Brooklyn as a major summer concert tour destination.”

Fans from across the five boroughs and beyond came to Coney Island to see Franklin’s free concert — her first in Brooklyn — but were put off by their treatment as well as the new concert spot, which holds about 2,000 fewer people than Asser Levy Park, where Markowitz’s concerts had been held for more than a decade.

“We were stuck in the lot with a cloth-covered fence in front of us — I thought it was really rude,” said longtime Franklin fan Shai Husain. “If too many people had come to the concert, then that’s fine, but couldn’t they lift the curtain [so we could see the concert]?”

Husain said that someone actually tore a hole the curtain, providing a lucky few a glimpse of a Jumbotron as Franklin belted out “Respect,” which became a theme song for the stranged fans.

“We sang the song louder than everybody else,” she said. “Everybody [in the parking lot with us] was outraged. If you’re going to have a free concert with the Queen of Soul you really should have it somewhere that can handle all of the people that will come.”

Sock it to us! Soul Queen Aretha Franklin wowed a standing room-only crowd in Coney Island on Thursday.
Photo Steve Solomonson

Markowitz agreed, but said he had no choice in the matter. He reluctantly left the bandshell at Asser Levy Park at W. Fifth Street after settling a lawsuit with residents who claimed his concerts violated city noise codes.

Those who sued Markowitz weren’t taking aim at the concert series per se, but the Borough President’s plan to build an 8,000-seat amphitheater inside a park and within 500 feet of two synagogues, a violation of city noise law.

Yet many concert lovers are bemoaning their exodus from Asser Levy Seaside Park.

When the concert series kicked off last month, attendees complained that the new venue was smaller, harder to get to and more uncomfortable, since music lovers had to unfurl their blankets over a concrete slab rather than the grass-covered Asser Levy Park.

But Ida Sanoff, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, shrugged off all the complaints.

“It’s insane to cram thousands of people into a small neighborhood park,” Sanoff said. “Coney Island has vast acres of empty land, yet Markowitz says he doesn’t have enough room for his concerts? That’s really insane! If you get a legend like Aretha Franklin, the world is going to show up. But how many entertainers of her caliber are going to be having free concerts in Coney Island?”

That’s a subjective question: Next up on the concert schedule is Cheap Trick, the 1980s rock band on Aug. 18. Many fans are expected.

Cheap Trick at the Seaside Summer Concert Series [W. 21 Street between Surf Avenue and the Boardwalk in Coney Island, (718) 222-0600], Aug. 18 at 7:30 pm. Free. For info, visit, www.brooklynconcerts.com.

No R-E-S-P-E-C-T: More than 1,000 people were shut out of the Aretha Franklin concert on Thursday, forcing them to listen to the Queen of Soul from the the Boardwalk and adjoining side-street.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

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