Razing the roof in Coney

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Imagine Liza Minnelli belting out “New York, New York” underneath a giant potato chip.

Strange, but that’s how some are describing the roof of the new $64 million Coney Island Center slated to rise at Asser Levy Park in Coney Island.

The fabric or polymer roof, resembling a giant potato chip or saddle, could have the ability to expand and retract depending on the weather.

Local officials are presently studying the effectiveness of similar structures already in use in places like Germany and China.

Jon Benguiat, Borough Hall’s Director of Planning and Development, recently talked about the feasibility of building an amphitheater with a retractable roof at a Municipal Art Society forum on Coney Island.

A few obstacles could still foil the retractable roof design — cost and Coney Island’s corrosive sea and sand.

Many city officials view Asser Levy Park Seaside Park, located between Surf and Seabreeze avenues, as the Gateway to Coney Island and an essential piece in the neighborhood’s redevelopment.

The new amphitheater with its distinctive new roof is expected to provide 8,000 seasonal seats and 3,000 lawn seats. Construction is anticipated to begin in August.

According to Benguiat, the field at Asser Levy Seaside Park is presently prone to both dust bowls and flooding, but after construction it might facilitate a myriad of new uses including ice skating, skateboarding and rollerblading.

The design of the new amphitheater extends beyond the new stage, roof, bathrooms and dressing room facilities, all the way back to end of the field.

According to Benguiat, that area could be raised 15 to 25 feet to allow for enhanced viewing.

Similar stepped down seating might also be installed across the street at the popular handball courts — but according to Benguiat there are “questions about whether or not people want courts there.”

Borough Hall is teaming with the city’s Department of Design and Construction to get the project done.

“The Coney Island of the 21st century is out there waiting for us to make it happen,” Borough President Marty Markowitz said.

Updated 3:43 pm, October 19, 2011
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