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‘Youth’ is served at McCarren Park concert finale

The Brooklyn Paper
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What has seemed like an endless summer of concerts headlined by major acts and burgeoning indie rock bands at the McCarren Park Pool is fading for good this month.

Sonic Youth will headline venue's last paid show before it is closed to be renovated and one day used as an actual pool, on August 30.

Over the past three years, music fans from throughout New York City, and beyond, have been making regular pilgrimages to the pool for free shows on Sundays and paid concerts sponsored by LiveNation from acts including M.I.A, Wilco, and Devo.

The end of the summer concert series, sponsored by the Open Space Alliance and JellyNYC, a concert promotion company, and subsequent conversion of the site into a city pool for neighborhood residents is being greeted with disappointment or relief, depending on who you ask.

“We’ve been trying to fundraise for the pool for 26 years,” said Amy Cleary, a spokesperson for Assemblymember Joseph Lentol. “This community has been working on this for a very long time. It’s one of the most amazing things for longtime advocates in the community.”

After more than two decades of lobbying, the Williamsburg-Greenpoint community received news three years ago from Mayor Michael Bloomberg that he was allocating $50 million for the renovations of McCarren Park’s pool as part of the city’s PlaNYC 2030 initiative. The summer concert series began shortly after, with the Parks Department’s approval, while construction on the pool would cease during the summer months.

“One has nothing to do with the other,” Cleary said. “Any money raised at the door is going into the general fund with the Parks Department.

Lentol, Councilmember David Yassky, and members of the Open Space Alliance are working with JellyNYC on securing alternate sites for future concerts in Williamsburg. Open Space Alliance executives are looking at developing Bushwick Inlet Park (North 15th and Kent streets), once the site becomes online, while Lentol is working with state officials on holding more events at State Park on Kent and North 8th streets.

Concertgoers and music industry professionals, however, are disappointed that the venue will be closing. For many, it is another symbol of a city where music venues and even life itself can be transitory, before the next popular location emerges.

“I’m going to really miss this,” said Stephanie Gross, an editor at Showpaper and avid dodgeball participant. “This space is really great for multipurpose events like the slip’n slide, the vendors and the show. It’s really sad.”

Others, like photographer Jen Scanlin, were angry at city officials for not finding a compromise that incorporated elements of the pool and the concert venue, conserving the JellyNYC shows.

“I know they’re putting a pool in for the community, but look at the community here that’s been developing,” Scanlin said. “There’s an overwhelming presence of people who still want music here. They’re going back to a job on Monday that they probably hate. This is a great venue.”

Perhaps the opinion that most surmised the neighborhood’s dual sense of loss and opportunity came from a musician who recently played at one of the last JellyNYC’s McCarren Pool shows. After playing at the inaugural All Points West music festival held on Liberty Island, the Felice Brothers took the train into Brooklyn, and seemed happier to be headlining the Pool’s August 10 show for a small but enthusiastic crowd.

“The concrete, the vibe of it here, I mean, you can’t play in an empty pool every day,” Greg Farley, violinist and miscellaneous musician with Felice Brothers, said after finishing the show while fans emptied out of the venue. “If folks around here need a pool, then I say, fill it up! If it’s for the yuppies, forget it. They don’t need a pool.”

Sonic Youth will headline the final concert series at the McCarren Park Pool (Lorimer Street between Driggs Avenue and Bayard Street) on August 30 at 4 p.m. Tickets are $35 and available at www.ticketmaster.com. Wolf Eyes, Times New Viking, and Vivian Girls support. For more information, go to www.mccarrenpark.com.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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