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Theater critics blast Board

The Brooklyn Paper
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Angry critics of the new $64 million amphitheater planned for Asser Levy Seaside Park are steaming mad this week, wondering why Community Board 13 did not bother to record their opposition to the project.

Just a couple of weeks ago, opponents of Borough President Marty Markowitz’s dream project spent two hours at a Community Board 13 Parks and Recreation Committee meeting held at the Education Hall of the New York Aquarium vociferously denouncing the plan they say will destroy their community.

But last week, when the minutes of that event were presented at Community Board 13’s regular monthly meeting held at Coney Island Hospital, they contained no mention of the opposition.

The four−sentence, 73−word recap of the highly contentious and acrimonious committee meeting did not even contain the word “amphitheat­er.”

The only hint of controversy referred to the absence of a microphone which made it extremely difficult for many of the older adults in attendance to hear.

“Sound in the room was difficult,” Community Board 13 District Manager Chuck Reichenthal noted in the official minutes.

“I looked at these minutes and I couldn’t believe what I was reading,” Brighton 3rd Street resident Audrey Gardner declared at last week’s Community Board 13 meeting. “This is a ridiculous report. It doesn’t say that there was a crowd that was breaking through the doors.”

Residents like Gardner who oppose Markowitz’s amphitheater and live near Asser Levy Seaside Park have vowed to block the project but say that their own community board is working against them.

“I don’t believe that we are getting fair reporting or fair hearing by this community board,” Gardner said. “This community board should represent the community, not themselves.”

Community Board 13 Chair Marion Cleaver stressed that her group has not taken any official position on the amphitheater and said that the Parks and Recreation Committee meeting held at Education Hall was convened at Markowitz’s request “so that the architects could bring the plan out into the open.”

No amount of new landscaping or playground equipment is enough to assuage critics who maintain that creating an outdoor concert venue with a larger capacity than Radio City Music Hall right outside their bedroom windows would be a nightmare.

Earlier this week, however, Markowitz told this newspaper that the residents who live around Asser Levy Seasside Park do not actually belong to a “bedroom community.”

“They’re not a bedroom community,” Markowitz said following a meeting of the Manhattan Beach Neighborhood Association held at P.S. 195 on Irwin Street. “They’re part of Coney Island. It’s a Coney Island community.”

While touting Brooklyn tourism and assuring Manhattan Beach residents that having double−decker buses filled with tourists rolling through their bedroom community would not be appropriate, the borough president −− currently running for a third term −− could not say the same thing for the residents living around Asser Levy Seaside Park.

“There’s residential there, but there’s also commercial,” Markowitz said. “There are beaches, there is the boardwalk, there is the aquarium − it’s Coney Island and they can’t deny that.”

Reichenthal defended the minutes of the May 21 Parks and Recreation Committee meeting saying that he simply could not hear what was being said because of all the cross−talk and noise.

“Rather than quote everybody wrong, I did the only thing that I could,” Reichenthal said.

Though chaotic, calls for an official Community Board 13 resolution on the amphitheater were made during the committee meeting.

Barbara Teitelbaum, chair of the committee, however, rebuffed them saying that the meeting featuring the design team working on the proposed amphitheater was informational only.

When asked if the board would entertain a resolution at their next meeting later this month, Reichenthal said, “I will see what the board wants.”

“I think we have to play it as the city wants it,” Reichenthal said. “The community board has been looking at this since Marty first mentioned it and it has never been out of discussion.”

Markowitz will have an opportunity to directly address opponents of the amphitheater at the next meeting of Community Board 13 scheduled for June 24 at Coney Island Hospital.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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