The new home of a popular summer concert series in Coney Island is an uncomfortable slab of concrete that’s doesn’t have enough free seats and is too difficult to get into, say angry concert-goers who attended this season’s first show Thursday night.
This year, Borough President Markowitz reluctantly moved his Seaside Summer Concerts Series from the bandshell at Asser Levy Park at W. Fifth Street to a lot at W. 21st Street after settling a lawsuit with residents who claimed the concerts violated city noise codes.
But many music fans who flocked to the kick-off said that the new, cement venue can’t hold a candle to green Asser Levy Park.
“This space [stinks]!” said Bay Ridge resident Kelly Graham, who attended the concert featuring Joan Jett. “Asser Levy Park was a much better venue with a much better atmosphere.”
Most of the complaints came from the folks who brought their own chairs and blankets and watch the show for free. Many grumbled that they missed the wide-open spaces of Asser Levy, where there was much more room to stretch out.
“Asser Levy Park was a beautiful and classic location,” said Steven Centonzo. “I miss the grass and picnicking with a blanket.”
On top of that, the new site only has room for 2,000 freeloaders — about half as many that could fit at Asser Levy, according to Markowitz spokesman Mark Zustovich.
The new venue includes the same 5,000 paid seats, which cost $5 each.
The “bring your own chair” folks said they were also frustrated with having to wait in line for about an hour with paying customers to get onto the grounds.
“If you brought your own chair [to Asser Levy Park], you used to be able to just walk in and hang out,” said Christine Thompson.
The lines for the Joan Jett concert stretched more than two blocks down Surf Avenue, delaying the 7:30 pm scheduled start by an hour.
“It never took this long at the old shows!” said Sheepshead Bay resident Shane Connor. “They need more than one entrance!”
On hand for opening night, Markowitz apologized for the delay and promised to “re-evaluate” the entrance process so that next Thursday’s concert could start on time.
But when Jett finally took the stage, most of the thousands in attendance settled down and enjoyed the show.
“It’s still great music,” said Joyce Milowski.
The Beep had held the shows at Asser Levy Park for 20 years with few complaints. That all changed in 2009 when Markowitz announced plans to build a new, state-of-the-art, $64-milllion bandshell. That’s when officials from synagogues across the street from the park sued, claiming concerts for years had been violating a law forbidding amplified sound within 500 feet of a house of worship. The case’s settlement stipulates that the borough president must obey the noise law.
As a result, the future of both the concerts and the sound-blasting amphitheater are in jeopardy. Markowitz told the Courier on Thursday that his lawyers are “reviewing” the bandshell upgrade and vowed to fight for his plan. But he’s worried about finding a home for the concerts next year, as the owner of the W. 21st Street lot wants to lease the space to a developer.
“I hope the concerts can still be here, but my fear is that [the landlord] will find a tenant,” Markowitz said.
At least for this year, the shows will go on, with pop legends The Monkees headlining on July 21.
Seaside Summer Concert Series [W. 21 Street between Surf Avenue and the Boardwalk in Coney Island, (718) 222-0600], July 14 through Aug. 18 at 7:30 pm. Free. For info, visit, www.brooklynconcerts.com/seaside.html.