Sunday, July 10, 2011

Brooklyn residents pull plug on concert series 

It's going to be awfully quiet in Brooklyn's Asser Levy Park this summer. After a 20-year run, the Seaside Summer Concert Series that filled the nine-acre park every Thursday night from mid-July through August is moving on.

The concrete band shell in the park between Coney Island and Brighton Beach, mere steps from the boardwalk, once boasted music legends including the Beach Boys and Blondie. It drew fans from as far away as Suffolk County and the Bronx.

No more. A bitter fight between area residents and city officials over a proposed $64 million amphitheater for the park has finally put an end to all of that. When the series kicks off on July 14, with Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, it will do so in a vacant lot 16 blocks west, and some people—including one borough president—are really unhappy about that.

“Unfortunately, we're up against selfish, spiteful people,” said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who in 2004 first floated the idea of erecting a glitzy grandstand eight times the size of the 8,000-square-foot band shell at Asser Levy. “It would be a shame if an opportunity like this is lost.”

Maybe, but the concerts' fate now appears to be sealed.
Amphitheater blocked

It is an odd turn of fortunes for a popular series that had run since 1991 with little in the way of fanfare or controversy. But residents, including members of two nearby synagogues in the mostly Russian and Jewish neighborhood, recoiled at the idea of a local park sprouting a big new amphitheater. Last year, they sued the city to block its construction, citing an arcane law that prohibits amplified sound within 500 feet of a house of worship during services.

The legal tactic worked. The parties reached a settlement at the end of June, and the concerts will leave Asser Levy. In response, many residents cheered.

“It was always a 'grin and bear it' situation,” said Ida Sanoff, a 59-year-old Brighton Beach resident and one of the chief opponents of the amphitheater. “Many people hated these concerts. They were really disruptive to the neighborhood.”

Shut out of Asser Levy Park, concert organizers have managed to secure a big lot near West 21st Street and the boardwalk. Instead of acres of greensward, this year's crop of concertgoers will have 121,000 square feet of aging asphalt. Because it will cost an extra $200,000 in total to rent a stage and generator, there will be only six concerts this summer instead of the usual seven. But the good news is that the show will go on, for now.

However, there is no guarantee that the space, owned by developer Taconic Investment Partners, will be available for future seasons.

“Things are still up in the air,” said Blake DeBoer, an asset manager for the firm. “We obviously have other plans.”
No space for music

Those plans, which have yet to be announced, would all but guarantee the end to the summer concert series at Coney Island. With the recent addition of two new amusement parks, and plans for high-rise hotels and up to 4,500 new apartments, there's simply no other space.

It would be a sad end for a series that has drawn as many as 15,000 city dwellers throughout an evening to hear storied acts such as the B-52's, Pat Benatar and Hall & Oates. Many concertgoers would wander out afterward to grab a Nathan's hot dog and stroll the boardwalk, or catch a ride on the Wonder Wheel.

“Without the concerts, it ain't Coney Island,” said Chuck Reichenthal, the community board manager in the neighborhood. “It would be a tragic thing.”

Ms. Sanoff, on the other hand, is whistling a different tune.

“This is New York City,” she said. “Nothing stays the same.”


Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Chaptzem! Blog