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Opponents of Borough President Marty Markowitz’s $64 million plan to build a new amphitheater at Asser Levy⁄Seaside Park and transform it into a Westbury Music Festival−style venue have already promised to file lawsuits and vote Republican – and this week they upped the ante.
“If Marty Markowitz wants to run his bulldozers over the bodies of elderly ladies, then that’s what he’s going to get,” said Ida Sanoff, one of the leaders of the opposition.
Critics of the plan living in Brightwater Towers, Trump Village, Luna Park and other residences surrounding the Sea Breeze Avenue park are fuming over the borough president’s decision to skip a Community Board 13 meeting at Coney Island Hospital on June 24 to address their concerns.
Instead of the beep, the standing−room−only crowd got an aide who usually attends CB 13’s monthly meetings and Markowitz’s press secretary who distributed a flyer offering “facts” on the “Asser Levy⁄Seaside Park Rehabilitation Project.”
Markowitz’s aide, Andrew Steininger, read a letter from the borough president, noting, “Although I understand that members of the community have announced my attendance, I never confirmed that I would be able to make this meeting and regret that I am unable to attend due to the many graduations taking place in Brooklyn.”
“Why isn’t he here? This is more important than graduations,” insisted Ocean Parkway resident Martin Jacobs.
According to Sea Breeze Jewish Center President Mendy Sontag, Markowitz never planned to attend the CB 13 meeting. Sontag recalled his recent one−on−one meeting with the beep: “I said, ‘Marty, are you coming to the June 24 meeting?’ He said, ‘What, are you crazy? I’m not going to show up there.’”
Just last month, Markowitz was all too happy to talk about the amphitheater at length to a full auditorium of Manhattan Beach residents at P.S. 195 on Irwin Street.
Markowitz spokesperson Mark Zustovich told this paper that the beep was indeed at a graduation ceremony on June 24 but would attend a future CB 13 meeting — if the board makes a request to his office.
“Our office and Marty are happy to meet with anyone or any group,” Steininger said.
Without Markowitz, angry residents held signs asserting their opposition to the beep’s plan for Asser Levy and pushed CB 13 to discuss the project, which was not listed on the meeting agenda.
Not budging, CB 13 Chair Marion Cleaver said, “I will stick to this agenda exactly as it is stated here.”
In doing so, residents booed during non−amphitheater−related topics — and gave the same reaction to Assemblymember Alec Brook−Krasny when he also failed to discuss the project.
Brook−Krasny, who supports Markowitz’s plan but urged him to address the community directly prior to the June 24 CB 13 meeting because “questions remained,” told this paper he stayed mum on the subject because “it has a lot to do with zoning with the city and it does not have anything to do with what I’m doing in the Assembly.”
Despite Zustovich’s invitation, it is unlikely that CB 13 will request Markowitz’s presence before the shovels are scheduled to hit the ground in the fall.
“Having another meeting like we had at the Aquarium, I don’t see what purpose is served,” Cleaver said.
She was referring to a Parks Committee meeting held at the New York Aquarium in the spring, which Markowitz also did not attend and critics’ questions about the amphitheater were not directly addressed.
“[Critics] didn’t listen,” Cleaver said. “It has to be a two−way conversation.”
Instead of CB 13 getting involved, Cleaver advocates small groups of people opposed to the amphitheater seek meetings with the borough president.
“I think they would be better off establishing small groups and talking to the borough president about his project, which doesn’t require the community board to review,” Cleaver said. “We have no input at all. I feel the borough president has gone out of his way to make several presentations on it.”
Sanoff accused Cleaver of ignoring the will of the people.
“I don’t know how she can ignore the public when thousands of people have signed a petition and gone to meetings,” Sanoff said. “I cannot fathom how she can be so disrespectful to the community.”
According to Sanoff, prior meetings with religious leaders like Sontag and these new meetings Cleaver is now proposing, smell like political maneuvering meant to sidestep the opposition.
“What is Markowitz going to do, try to divide and conquer?” Sanoff said. “That’s not going to work because we’re all talking together and we’re all working together.”
This week, Borough Hall Communications Director Laura Sinagra suggested that a meeting between the borough president and residents who live around Asser Levy Park could still happen.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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