Opponents of Borough President Marty Markowitz’s proposed $64-million amphitheater in Asser Levy Park sued to block the Beep’s annual summer concert series because its amplified sound is too close to two Jewish temples.
City law prohibits the use of amplification within 500 feet of a house of worship or school — a law that has apparently been flouted for all of the 19 years that Markowitz’s Seaside Summer Concert Series has been in the Coney Island park.
Plaintiffs, including officials with Temple Beth Abraham and Sea Breeze Jewish Center, said they only became aware of the city code when they began protesting Markowitz’s bid for an even-bigger concert venue inside the park.
“This illegal activity will not only continue unabated, but will in fact escalate,” lawyers for the plaintiffs argued in court papers filed last Thursday in Brooklyn Supreme Court.
Markowitz, whose series is slated to kick off on July 15 with Neil Sedaka and Brenda Lee, fired back, defiantly saying that he will continue to hold the concerts.
“We will have the concerts,” he said. “Brooklyn deserves it. Brooklyn families need it.”
Indeed, the fact that he’s had a nearly 20-year run in Asser Levy Park makes a mockery of the plaintiffs’ legal argument, the Beep added.
“[The 500-foot rule] is immaterial to me because the concerts have occurred each and every year,” he said.
But Norman Siegel, the civil rights lawyer and frequent political candidate, disagreed with the borough president’s reading of the law.
“Part of the lawsuit will determine if Markowitz was doing this without a permit or if the Police Department was illegally giving him permits,” said Siegel.
He also dismissed the notion that the suit is frivolous because the concerts have been going on for decades — without complaint until Markowitz proposed his amphitheater.
“The people in the synagogues are not lawyers,” Siegel said. “They don’t know the legal provisions in the administrative code. The borough president said, ‘Go sue me,’ and we are doing what he said.”
Markowitz’s concerts have typically been on Thursdays, but worshippers at both synogogues say that amplified noise from the concerts routinely disrupts their non-Sabbath services.
Last July 30, for example, a concert by Frankie Valli and Connie Francis was apparently so raucous that a Tisha B’av service was ruined.
“Amplified sound from the sound-checks and rehearsals could be heard during the afternoon service,” said Alvin Turk, a vice president of Temple of Beth Abraham. “Participants of both worship services found the noise very annoying.”
Before the lawsuit, major concert promoters were already expressing an interest in programming the new venue, though critics maintain that it will not only foul their air with noise but also chew up the vast majority of the recreational space in their only public park.
Markowitz said that his detractors should be “ashamed” of themselves and accused them of holding his popular Seaside Summer Concert Series “hostage.”
“As we say in Yiddish, it is a shonda,” he said.
Markowitz’s summer concerts will include shows by the Beach Boys (July 22); George Thorogood and the Destroyers, plus Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes (July 29); John Legend (Aug. 5); and Aretha Franklin (Aug. 12).
Councilman Domenic Recchia (D–Coney Island) also sponsors amplified concerts in the park, but his series begins later in the summer, so he was not named in the suit.
He also does not have a $64-million amphitheater proposal in the works.
A spokeswoman for the city Law Department declined to comment.
A hearing on the lawsuit has been set for June 30 in Brooklyn Supreme Court.