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The New York Community Gardens Coalition sues city over Coney Island amphitheater’s eviction of Boardwalk Garden

Booted Boardwalk gardeners sue to block Markowitz amphitheater

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These gardeners are sowing the seeds of discontent.

The New York Community Gardens Coalition is suing the city on behalf of Coney Island’s Boardwalk Garden, which was bulldozed last December to make way for ex-Borough President Marty Markowitz’s $53-million amphitheater project.

The Coalition’s legal team claims that the planned Seaside Park and Community Arts Center violates municipal requirements for sewer capacity — and so the city should therefore not have booted the People’s Playground planters from their 17-year-old garden.

“The city did not follow its own regulations,” said attorney Joel Kupferman of the New York Environmental Law and Justice Project, which is spearheading the suit. “You’re going to have thousands of people coming to a concert, and the sewers in Coney West cannot take that.”

Kupferman further alleged that iStar Financial, the company that will construct and operate the new hall as a permanent home for Markowitz’s summer concert series, did not do the proper studies when they designed the underground reservoirs that the company claims will combat flooding at the waterfront venue.

Attorneys for iStar say that the blueprints are perfectly in line with regulations.

“I’m not sure what they think their grounds are, but I know that everything that needed to be done was done for this project,” said Howard Weiss.

The Coney gardeners began tilling the soil at the W. 22nd Street spot in 1997. The city kicked the growers out in 2004 in order to convert the parcel into a parking lot for MCU Park, but the garden was never paved, and seed-sowers returned without much notice.

Hurricane Sandy soaked the spot and buried it in sand, but the gardeners dug their way out and replanted last spring — about the same time Markowitz announced his plan to place his long-dreamt-of amphitheater inside the landmarked Childs Building next door — and to convert the garden into seating.

Community Board 13 voted down Markowitz’s proposal last September, but the plan breezed through the City Planning Commission and then the Council.

The gardeners hoped to hold out and somehow keep their longtime location, but late last year iStar deployed an array of earthmovers early one morning to forcibly uproot the garden. The amphitheater plan calls for construction to begin this year, and for the venue to open in 2015.

The Coalition expressed hope that Markowitz’s successor, Eric Adams, would work with them to let the gardeners return to their vegetable patch.

“We’re asking our new elected official to right the wrong that has been done,” said Aresh Tavadi, legislative coordinator for the Coalition.

Adams’s office declined to say if the new beep would aid the gardeners, but said he would be glad to meet with them.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at wbredderman@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at twitter.com/WillBredderman.
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Reader Feedback

Bobby L. from Sheepshead Bay says:
Thousands of people coming to enjoy a concert vs a few gardeners planting vegetables. Seems a bit selfish trying to block this. You had a good run, now let other people have their turn.
March 8, 2014, 10:38 am
Luis from Bronx says:
Agreed Bobby! It's extremely selfish that these people want to block the project. Coney Island has lost many of it's historical buildings and to allow the Childs building to fall further into decay over a illegal community garden would be a travesty. I'm glad that someone has decided to give it new life to entertain the people of Coney Island and New York City as a whole. It's my understanding that these people were given an alternative location to garden but it wasn't to their liking. They're lucky to have had the time they spent gardening at that location especially since it was NOT sanctioned by the city. The land does not belong to them yet they're still having a tantrum.
March 9, 2014, 1:48 pm

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