Brighton Beach and Coney Island residents spoke out against the borough president’s plan to spend $64 million in taxpayer money to build an amphitheater in Asser Levy Seaside Park — a plan many contend is unwise while the city and state prepare to cut services due to the worsening economy.
“One thousand firemen are going to be cut next year but [Borough President] Marty [Markowitz] will build his amphitheater. He can fiddle in his amphitheater while Brooklyn burns,” Paul Sternblitz accused at last week’s meeting of Community Board 13.
“They want to build an amphitheater at the very same time they are slashing funds for services,” said Al Turk, vice president of Temple Beth Abraham.
Public school budgets are being cut “but somehow they have $64 million for an amphitheater that only our grubby politicians want?” Turk challenged.
Sternblitz’s brother, Ralph, believes the amphitheater will cost even more than expected.
“You think it’s going to cost only $64 million? Don’t believe it,” he said. “Maybe double! Maybe triple!”
“This is our money! Not the politicians money to squander away!” Turk asserted.
In spite of community opposition, Markowitz remains committed to the amphitheater plan.
His rep told this paper, “This is a priority New York City Parks project and is part of the city’s larger Coney Island revitalization plan. It will only enhance the surrounding community and residents will benefit from a new playground, park house and community facilities, in addition to upgrades throughout the park. Replacing Asser Levy’s antiquated band shell with a state-of-the-art one will ensure that free cultural programming remains in Coney Island.”
A Borough Hall source noted that the amphitheater would be constructed with capital funding, which cannot be applied to operating expenses, such as supporting city agencies like the Fire Department.
Once again, residents begged Community Board 13 members to stand with them in opposing the amphitheater project. Or at the very least, take some kind of position.
“Silence, like a cancer, grows,” Turk said. “Members of Community Board 13, we are reaching out to you. Be with us. Do not allow yourselves to be engulfed by the sound of silence.”
Arlene Brenner offered the most interesting three-minute public speaking session. Armed with a large boom box, she held the speaker to a microphone and scrolled through seemingly every FM radio station. Meeting attendees seemed unsure of the significance of hearing pop music at the meeting until Brenner turned up the volume and began screaming, “Can you hear me?”
As audience members yelled back, “no,” Brenner concluded, “This is what I’ll hear from my bedroom window [during concerts]. Now you know.”
In spite of these pleas and theatrics, no board member made a remark about the amphitheater project.
Community Board 13 has steadfastly maintained that it has no role in the issue. The Parks Department has determined that the construction of the amphitheater will not be subject to Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). However, the actual use of the venue might require a ULURP process.