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Plans to break ground on the new $64 million Coney Island Center at Asser Levy Park are running full throttle this week, but increasingly vocal opponents say it’s a bad idea.
“[Borough President] Marty [Markowitz] is trying to go through the back door,” said Geoffrey Croft of the non-profit watchdog group NYC Park Advocates.
According to Croft, what Borough Hall is essentially doing with its plan to construct a new 110-foot-tall amphitheater at Asser Levy Park Seaside Park in Coney Island is take public space and convert it into commercial use.
“Recreational uses will be dramatically changed,” he said. “You’re converting the space from an active recreation use to this monstrosity.”
Former Community Board 13 member Ida Sanoff sees other problems with the proposed amphitheater as well.
“This structure does not belong in the middle of a residential neighborhood,” she said. “The other problem is the cost.”
With KeySpan Park only blocks away and largely unused when the Brooklyn Cyclones aren’t playing baseball, Sanoff believes that the Coney Island Center is a waste of money.
“It [KeySpan Park] has bathrooms, food concessions -- it already has everything there,” she said.
While an Environmental Impact Statement is reportedly being prepared at the borough president’s request, planners insists that ULURP -- Uniform Land Use Review Procedure -- is not required in this case because Asser Levy Seaside Park will continue to be used as a park with 5,000 removable seats that can be stored beneath the new stage during the off-concert season.
“Asser Levy Park is in desperate need of renovation. The Coney Island Center will not only be a performing arts venue, but a playground and upgrades to the surrounding area -- drainage, landscaping, etc. -- will enhance the beauty and functionality of the site,” Borough Hall spokesperson Mark Sustovich said.
If there are problems with Asser Levy Park -- the only significant green space in the neighborhood -- it’s the city’s fault, according to Croft.
“It’s a dustbowl because the city doesn’t’ maintain it,” he said.
“The worst part of this whole thing is that we were told it was a done deal and nothing could be done about it,” said Sanoff.
Members of Community Board 13 got a chance to look at the proposal in December but did not vote on it. NYC Park Advocates met with Borough Hall officials to discuss aspects of the plan earlier this month.
Supporters of the new Coney Island Center amphitheater see it as an integral piece in the highly volatile Coney Island redevelopment plan.
“The Coney Island Center will serve as a catalyst for the future of Coney and as an inviting gateway — something that welcomes visitors and says ‘you’re in Coney Island,’” Sustovich said.
Critics, however, maintain that concerts at Seaside Park already generate significant traffic problems for residents and that attracting more people to the area will only exacerbate the situation.
“Everyone enjoys the concerts in the park just the way they are,” Sanoff said.
Opponents say they will hold a town hall meeting on the Coney Island Center plan in the coming weeks.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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