After months of intense opposition from neighborhood residents, Borough President Marty Markowitz has decided to pull back on his efforts to transform Asser Levy Seaside Park on Sea Breeze Avenue into a major new concert hub, this newspaper has learned.
Borough Hall confirmed last week that designs outlining a reconfigured park/playground slated to be submitted to the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation this month have been “delayed.”
“We’re hopeful that this results in a drastically different plan for the park,” NYC Park Advocates President Geoffrey Croft said.
Croft’s non-profit watchdog group is part of the community coalition opposing construction of a new $64 million amphitheater at Asser Levy Seaside Park.
Late last month, members of the coalition met with Borough Hall representatives to discuss possible ways of scaling back the project that many living around the park believe is too expensive and will destroy their quality of life.
“We basically gave them our counter-proposal,” said Al Turk, immediate past-president of Temple Beth Abraham. “Sixty-four million dollars is outrageous. How many cops would that buy? It’s too big a theater for such a small area.”
Temple Beth Abraham is one of two houses of worship located across the street from the proposed new amphitheater that critics say will suffer if Markowitz is allowed to proceed with his plans. The other is the Sea Breeze Jewish Center. Mendy Sontag is the president.
“We’re meeting again with them [Borough Hall] after September 11,” Sontag said. “They said they were drawing up new plans.”
According to Croft, Borough Hall’s decision to revisit designs for a revamped playground is significant because moving the existing facilities located in the western end of the parkwould free up space for an expanded amphitheater.
Critics of the proposal say that relocating the playground is unacceptable because it would expose children to more pollution and traffic.
“We’re trying to be good people,” Turk said. “We’re willing to compromise. We’re not outrageous people. But the plan has to be something that works within the community.”
According to the Parks Department, there is opportunity edit and make changes to the plan even though the Department of Design and Construction has already granted preliminary approval.
Coalition members have kept the pressure on Markowitz throughout this year’s Seaside Summer Concert Series on Thursday nights, distributing flyers denouncing the borough president’s amphitheater even as Markowitz has done his best as host to blunt the criticism -- often kibitzing with Sontag from the stage after acknowledging the community leader’s presence in the crowd.
Sontag says that critics remain firmly opposed to plans that would radically alter the way the existing park functions, but said there is room for compromise.
“Communication is all we have,” Sontag said. “We’re sticking firm, but of course everything is negotiable. No way Marty is going to go along with everything we want, and there’s no way we are going to go along with everything they want.”
Croft insists that it is still too early to talk about compromise with Borough Hall.
“We have no idea what’s happening,” Croft said. “We hope we can come to some kind of favorable outcome.”
©2009 Community News Group
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