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Some members of Community Board 13 are feeling the squeeze this week - caught between a chairperson who has insisted that the group has no active role in the new $64 million amphitheater Borough President Marty Markowitz proposes for Asser Levy Park - and opponents who demand that they speak out.
“I want to make sure the park is done correctly,” board member Todd Dobrin said. “You can’t call us puppets. It’s not fair. I don’t work for any politician or city agency.”
Neighborhood residents, convinced that the new amphitheater planned for Asser Levy Park will radically alter the operation of the green space and negatively impact their quality of life, have become increasingly frustrated with board members’ silence.
At times, that anger has boiled over into jeers and curses at Community Board 13 public meetings held each month at Coney Island Hospital.
“Yelling and screaming and insulting the community board is pushing us away at this point,” said Pat Singer, a 30-year veteran of the board and president of the Brighton Neighborhood Association.
Although supportive of the proposed amphitheater, Singer says the plan should have come before the board for review.
“We are told that we are not involved in the process,” Singer said. “I don’t understand why it’s not involved in the process, but we’re not.”
Community Board 13 Chair Marion Cleaver has maintained that the proposed amphitheater project is “as-of-right” and therefore not subject to the Uniform Land Use Procedure [ULURP].
As reported here earlier, however, a determination about ULURP has not yet been made.
“The city has not yet made a determination if the amphitheater project will require ULURP,” Parks Department spokesperson Phil Abramson told this newspaper.
That admission contradicts what some Community Board 13 members say they have been told.
“The way it has always been explained to me is this [project] is as-of-right,” former Community Board 13 chair and continuing member Brian Gotlieb said.
Singer says that as a member of the Housing & Zoning Committee she expected the amphitheater proposal to come up for review -- but it never did.
“I never saw the plan,” Singer said. “I only picked up on pieces of the plans from reading your newspaper.”
Dobrin has since requested a Community Board 13 Parks Committee meeting with Markowitz or a Borough Hall representative to discuss the amphitheater proposal at length.
While their decisions are not binding, Community boards do have an advisory role in government.
“I think the board should definitely address the community’s concerns,” Dobrin said. “I’m certainly doing my best.”
Asboth a Community Board 13 member and a Trump Village resident - where many of amphitheater’s staunchest critics live - Lollie Reich says she feels “[be]twixt and between”
“I just wanted the community board to send a letter to the borough president enumerating the complaints coming from the area,” Reich said. “I find it very difficult living in my building and being on the community board without talking about their plight,”
Up until know, Community Board 13’s lack of involvement in the issue has only garnered fierce recriminations from critics and charges of kowtowing to elected officials.
Reich says she now worries about losing the seat she’s held on the board for the last 15 years because she openly opposes Markowitz’s amphitheater.
“I don’t want to lose my community board seat,” Reich said. “A seat has been taken away from a person for speaking out.”
Ida Sanoff, one of thelead organizers opposing the amphitheater, lost her seat on Community Board 13 in 2007. She was also recently bounced from the Parks Committee as well.
“I think we’re proceeding within the power that we have,” Gotlieb said. That being said, if he were still chair, Gotlieb said he would “ask the borough president to come speak before the board and the community.”
That’s something Markowitz has been so far been loathe to do, citing the incivility of his opponents.
“I’ve lived here for 45 years, that park is like my Central Park,” Reich said. “Put the money into dressing rooms and bathrooms and keep it the small, community kind of bandshell it has always been. People don’t want to lose the green area and I agree with them.”
-- with Michèle De Meglio contributing.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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