Borough President Markowitz’s controversial Coney Island amphitheater hasn’t even been approved yet, but the city is acting as if the fat lady has already sung.
On Thursday, the Parks Department announced that it is seeking proposals from venue operators to run the new, $64-million amphitheater slated to be built inside Asser Levy Park in Coney Island by 2012.
The agency’s formal “Request for Expressions of Interest” calls on prospective operators to “include year-round uses for the facility” and operate “10 designated locations for food carts, and three separate areas for food service, a commissary … and food storage containers.”
The venue must also generate “enough revenue — including food concessions — to cover the cost of both programming and maintenance” while “maintaining the same level of free concerts already offered at the current band shell” by the borough president.
Despite such a big operation, the project is not going through the city’s normal land-use review process because there is already an operating, though far smaller, band shell currently on the site.
Still, the city’s Design Commission has said it will not sign off on the project until an “environmental assessment” has been completed. It’s unclear when that will be, but the Parks Department is going ahead in seeking an operator, offering a site tour on April 16 and a bidding deadline of May 7.
Markowitz has said that his amphitheater will be a Westbury Music Festival-style, covered outdoor concert venue that will be part of a reinvigorated Coney Island.
But nearby residents have opposed the project from the outset, charging that the plan is far too ambitious inside a quiet, 22-acre park, surrounded by residences and at least two synagogues.
Opponents have consistently taken their protest to Community Board 13, which has not weighed in — mostly because half of the board’s 50 members are appointed by the borough president, foes say.
“We have $64 million for an unwanted and illegal amphitheater while the Fire Department is called upon to reduce its budget by $64 million,” local resident Paul Sternblitz cried.
Opponents are still hanging their hopes on a city ordinance that prohibits amplified sound within 500 feet of an active school or religious institution. But Markowitz’s current summertime concert series includes amplified sound, so it’s unclear if the ordinance can be invoked.
The current design of the building, by Grimshaw Architects, is being called “The Potato Chip” because of its curved, saddle-like design.
— additional reporting by Michele De Meglio