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Two competing impressions of the new amphitheater planned for Asser Levy Seaside Park — one fanciful, the other nightmarish — collided head−on in Coney Island last week at a contentious and often ugly meeting of Community Board 13’s parks committee, held at the New York Aquarium’s Education Hall.
The world−famous Cyclone might be located right next door, but it was no match for the thundering roar that residents opposed to the plan produced.
One thing has emerged from the cacophony since: while residents living near the park view the amphitheater as a $64 million millstone tied around the community’s neck, Borough Hall views it as the gleaming gateway to a new and reinvigorated Coney Island.
“There is a sea change that is about to happen,” Borough Hall spokesperson Laura Sinagra told this newspaper. “Coney Island is going to enter another heyday and this [amphitheater] is going to be a part of that.”
Planners are anticipating breaking ground on the new amphitheater by the end of the summer, but profound questions about the project remain — not the least of which is where patrons will park their cars.
Borough Hall believes parking concerns about the proposed amphitheater can be addressed through the greater Coney Island redevelopment plan.
Critics say they are still waiting to see an environmental impact statement and are ready to go to court to block construction.
Noise concerns and the close proximity to two houses of worship remain a major source of opposition as well.
At the outset, the weird “potato chip” design of Borough President Marty Markowitz’s new amphitheater garnered most of the attention, but there’s more than meets the eye beneath the newfangled roof.
While Borough Hall touts the flexibility of designs that would allow removable lawn seating to be converted into a variety of recreational uses when concerts are not scheduled. the result would be a permanently stratified park, elevating ball games some 20 feet off the ground.
Planners dismiss the obvious drawbacks of playing sports on a high plateau by pointing out that the elevated section of the new park would actually be sloped along a gentle grade.
“That’s not an active lawn,” Geoffrey Croft, founder and president of NYC Park Advocates says. “Take out the chairs [for concerts] and people can sit up there but that’s not a ballfield.”
According to designers, the elevated space will be used as storage and possibly a comfort station with a total of 64 toilets.
“We look forward to revitalizing Asser Levy Park with a new playground, restored pathways and the construction of a state−of−the−art amphitheater, which will serve Brooklyn for many generations to come,” Parks Department spokesperson Phil Abramson said. “Plans for the amphitheater’s operation are still being discussed and, working with the Borough President’s office, we will remain sensitive to the community’s concerns.”
Opponents of the plan still insist there are better ways of spending $64 million in capital expense money.
Community Board 13 District Manager Chuck Reichenthal declined to comment on what capital projects within his district could use some cash, and Community Board 11 District Manager Marnee−Elias Pavia did not respond to requests for comment at press time.
Community Board 15 Chair Theresa Scavo said that she would like to have funding to repave every street in her district but lamented, “that’s not going to happen.”
“To say that his [Markowitz] money should go to something here I can’t say that,” Scavo said. “It’s his discretion to dole it out. Marty is doing what he thinks is right.”
Sinagra, pointing to other multi−million−dollar park projects at places like Flushing Meadow Corona Park and McCarren Park [both pool projects], maintains that $64 million is not an unusual amount of money to spend on redeveloping Asser Levy Seaside Park.
Markowitz is expected to attend the next meeting of Community Board 13 slated for June 24 at Coney Island Hospital. Start time is 7:30 p.m.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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