New amphitheater could leave neighbors with concrete slab

Sixty-four million dollars is a lot of cash, but it still won’t be enough to pay for a skate park or ice skating rink at thenew “Coney Island Center.”

Last week, this newspaper reported that 42,000 square feet of Asser Levy Seaside Park might be covered in concrete if Borough President Marty Markowitz’s dream of building a new 8,000-seat amphitheater inside the neighborhood green space at Surf Avenue and West 5th Street becomes reality.

According to plans by Grimshaw Architects, designers of the project, the concrete-covered area underneath the roof of the proposed amphitheater, could accommodate an ice skating rink, skate park or other similar type feature when removable concert seating is cleared and shows are not being produced.

This week, however, the Parks Department confirmed that the hefty $64 million price tag for the borough president’s dream amphitheater does not cover the cost of building any of those potential recreational uses.

Critics of the plan, and even members of Community Board 13, have long complained that they do not fully understand many of the particulars associated with the amphitheater’s construction.

“They are going to turn operation of the amphitheater over to a private promoter, such as Live Nation, which will charge people for events,” amphitheater critic Ida Sanoff complained. “This is what we have been saying from the very beginning: people will have to pay for most recreational uses. You’re going to have to buy a ticket.”

The Parks Department says that many recreational options are being considered in conjunction with the amphitheater’s construction, but that it is still “too premature to speculate” on what forms those activities might actually take.

“Those things will be decided in the same way that all activities in parks are decided,” Borough Hall Communications Director Laura Sinagra said. “It is a city park and will remain one, managed by the NYC Parks Department.”

A required Environmental Assessment of the project has yet to be released. The Design Commission must also sign off on the project — but has not yet done so.

The Parks Department has already determined that the construction of the amphitheater will not be subjected to the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure [ULURP]. Programming for the new concert venue, however, could still trigger ULURP action.

Markowitz is allocating money from his capital expense budget to get the “Coney Island Center” built.

Borough Hall has traditionally used capital money to help fund things like school labs, playgrounds and art spaces.

The Mayor’s Office is allocating $10 million to the controversial project.

“The plans for Asser Levy Park will result in an enhanced, revitalized park and the new amphitheater will be a valuable part of that,” spokesperson Andrew Brent said.

Asser Levy Seaside Park’s existing bandshell currently plays host to popular summertime concerts two months out of the year in July and August.

Should the amphitheater be built, planners envision the concert season beginning in May and running throughout the summer.

It’s questionable, during that time, to what extent the public will have access to any recreational activities underneath the amphitheater’s roof.

While Borough Hall touts the flexibility of proposed concert seating, officials concede that the frequency to which those chairs might be cleared after shows to allow for recreational use has yet to be determined.

Similarly, Grimshaw renderings reflect no recreational use underneath the amphitheater’s roof from May to August.

“The projected costs have already doubled in two years and are only going to rise tremendously,” NYC Park Advocates President Geoffrey Croft warned. “These funds need to be spent fixing up the park instead of on this boondoggle.”