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Members of Community Board 13 who oppose the construction of Borough President Marty Markowitz’s $64 million amphitheater at Asser Levy⁄Seaside Park are so fed up with their group’s silence on the matter that they’re thinking about resigning.
That’s the word coming out of Community Board 13 this week.
“They’re talking about resigning,” Community Board 13 member and Coney Island resident Ronald Stewart told this newspaper. “How can they sit on a board that doesn’t have a voice?”
Amphitheater opponents who live in the apartment buildings surrounding Asser Levy Park want the borough president to address their concerns at a public forum.
Markowitz has thus far refused to accommodate them, preferring instead to meet individually with opposition leaders like Sea Breeze Jewish Center President Mendy Sontag, while the leadership of CB 13 has tried to stay far outside the tussle.
According to Stewart, other CB 13 members also oppose construction of the amphitheater but are too afraid to speak out for fear of losing their seat.
Critics of the planned amphitheater −− slated to break ground this fall – laced into CB 13 members at the group’s June 24 meeting held at Coney Island Hospital.
“You’ve told us off the record that you’re against this,” Ida Sanoff told CB 13 members. “You’re afraid to go on the record because you’re afraid you’ll get thrown off the board.”
“You are supposed to represent us,” Sanoff continued. “We beg you, we demand that you pass a resolution opposing this amphitheater.”
“How are you going to sleep at night knowing that you are going to okay $64 million in community money for a project that no one wants?” said Ruby Schultz.
“Please don’t be intimidated by the politicians who are afraid to show up here tonight,” said Al Turk, former president of Temple Beth Abraham.
The growing fervor against the amphitheater even brought out former Assemblymember Adele Cohen.
“It baffles me that a project that will so disturb the equanimity of our community is not subject to public review,” Cohen said.
Two years ago, nine members of Community Board Six in downtown Brooklyn lost their seats following the board’s decision to oppose the Atlantic Yards project. Markowitz was and continues to be a huge supporter of that troubled downtown project, and some charged at the time that the purge shattered “the illusion of independent participatory democracy.”
Markowitz defended the move saying it was merely an effort to bring new faces to the board.
Accusations of weak−kneed board members irk former CB 13 Chairperson Brian Gotlieb.
“Some people may be afraid to speak out. I don’t know who they are,” Gotlieb said. “I haven’t heard anybody in my presence say that they are. As former chair of the community board I take offense at anyone who says that I or any one of my colleagues are lackeys of the borough president.”
Critics of the amphitheater are so angry that the bluest Democrats among them have threatened to “vote Republican” in the next election.
That’s good news for Marc D’Ottavio, the Republican who is actually challenging Markowitz for his borough president seat.
The 44−year−old vice−chair of the Kings County Republican Committee is against the construction of the amphitheater and believes that public monies should instead be devoted solely to upgrading and improving Asser Levy Park.
“I think he needs to be changed,” D’Ottavio said of Markowitz. “I think he has outlived his welcome.”
Mendy Sontag says amphitheater opponents have now amassed over 6,000 names on a petition against the borough president’s plan.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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