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Theater of the outraged

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“Shameful,” “absurd” and “horrific” — those are just a few of the choice words opponents of Borough President Marty Markowitz’s bid to construct a $64 million amphitheater at Asser Levy Seaside Park used this past weekend, to describe efforts to transform their beloved Sea Breeze Avenue green space into the site of a new 8,000−seat outdoor music venue.

Over 100 people — congregants of two nearby temples, Talmud Torah students and longtime residents — gathered inside the park on Sunday to declare both their opposition to the plan and their determination to defeat it.

“We’re between high−rises and this is the only piece of land we have, and they’re going to take it away,” Trump Village resident Etta Dorf complained.

The protest preceded this week’s special Community Board 13 meeting held at the New York Aquarium to discuss the impact of the amphitheater project.

As visitors to the park on Sunday strolled the lanes with baby carriages, sat on benches and chatted with friends and romped on the lawn with their dogs, angry protesters like Eddie Kahne of Brightwater Towers openly jeered the borough president.

“Why don’t they go build this amphitheater near where Marty Markowitz lives – let him see the noise and traffic,” Kahne said. “They’re going to bring in 8,000 people here and it’s going to be a disaster.”

Sylvia Fields, president of the 29−40 Ocean Parkway Tenants Council, said that she was a longtime Markowitz supporter, but now only feels disappointment in the borough president.

“I knew Marty when he first started,” Fields lamented. “I told him, Marty run. You’ll get in. I’m very disappointed. He became too big.”

Both the president of the Sea Breeze Jewish Center and Temple Beth Abraham reiterated their staunch opposition to the proposed project, which they say will disrupt services at their nearby houses of worship with unbearable noise and traffic.

“We are directly across from this park,” Temple Beth Abraham President Al Turk said. “A few hundred feet at the most. How dare they put up an amphitheater to interrupt our services. How shameful this act would be.”

Sea Breeze Jewish Center President Mendy Sontag had a special message for the borough president.

“Marty Markowitz wants to run for a third term,” Sontag said. “How would he like it if thousands of people that live in this community all vote against him? This is the message I want to send to Marty Markowitz: if he wants to play with fire, the people will fight back.”

Opponents say that they’ll go all the way to court to block the amphitheater if necessary.

Civil rights activist and candidate for New York City public advocate Norman Siegel, is throwing his support behind the opposition.

“The law says that when the city government plans to change the use of public park land they must go through the uniform land review process,” Siegel said. “We will fight to make sure that the City of New York and the borough president and the mayor follow the law.”

Supporters of Markowitz’s plan to erect the 10−story amphitheater maintain that Asser Levy Seaside Park is nothing but a “dustbowl.”

Residents who regularly use the green space disagree.

“It’s beautiful here,” said Bernice Pflug, an Ocean Parkway resident of nearly 50 years. “It’s relaxing. In the summertime it’s paradise to sit under the sky. It’s cool and delicious.”

Surf Avenue resident Irene Zitser has only been in the community a fraction as long as her neighbor, but she too felt compelled to speak out against the amphitheater.

“We’re being bullied into something,” Zitser said. “It’s just mean. This is our oxygen supply.”

West 5th Street resident Felix Treyvus was playing with his dog and talking with friends on the lawn when he was asked what he thought about the new amphitheater.

“We don’t need another building around here,” Treyvus said. “I come here a lot with the dog. I’d rather him run on the grass than around the building.”

Geoffrey Croft, president and founder of New Yorkers for Parks, called the amphitheater a $64 million “boondoggle” and said that taxpayer money should instead be used to enhance the existing park.

“This commercial amphitheater does not belong in this park,” Croft said. “Parks are not for the benefit solely for elected officials, they are for the people.”

Ida Sanoff, who along with Croft is spearheading the opposition, says she has collected over 1,000 names on a petition against the amphitheater.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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