With the lack of toilet facilities and overall poor state of the bandshell at Asser Levy Seaside Park, Borough President Marty Markowitz says “it’s a miracle” that any celebrities have agreed to perform at his annual summer concert series on Sea Breeze Avenue.
“When they wash their hands, there are no water facilities for them,” Markowitz recently told neighbors in Manhattan Beach. “There’s no bathroom for them. I have construction huts I rent but there’s no running water and there’s no bathroom facilities. They have to walk out of that and go into one of the temporary johns. I tell you, to see some of those stars having to use that, it makes it difficult to get them back.”
Markowitz is in the midst of an all−out effort to construct a new $64 million amphitheater that critics maintain will destroy their park and community, and toilets are one of the biggest reasons why the borough president says he’s doing it.
But he has others.
“There’s a bigger reason why I’m doing it,” Markowitz said. “I’m 64 years old now – I’m sure I’ll be around until I’m 104 – but the truth of the matter is there will come a time when I will not be able to do the shows anymore. There is no guarantee that anyone coming after me is going to do shows there. But If I build a world−class venue – a beautiful seasonal amphitheater – it will attract someone that will take that on and make it a center of music for all the years to come.”
Don’t count on that future to come without cost, however. Markowitz indicated that Brooklynites are going to have to get used to paying for music inside their public park.
“The stars that I have, nowhere in America do they perform where the public doesn’t pay,” the borough president said. “It’s only in Brooklyn that they’re free. I pay the stars, but they perform for free for you. Only in Brooklyn – no place else – why? Because I started them 31 years ago. But that’s not going to be the future. The future is going to be a mix. Maybe there’s going to be somebody in the future that’s willing to do free shows – I hope there is – I pray that there is. But that venue will be a great location free or for fee as the biggest center of music.”
Looking ahead to the day when a private promoter takes over the Seaside Summer Concert Series, Markowitz said that off−site parking could be established to accommodate concert goers.
“We have to figure out – not for me – but for a private promoter when that happens a number of years from now, that we could write into the contracts that any private promoter has to provide off−site parking and provide jitney service.”
According to Markowitz, the nearby New York Aquarium already has hundreds of parking spots that concert−goers could utilize but, “people that come to the free concerts, the idea of paying for parking repulses them.”
Critics vowing to take the borough president to court in an effort to block his new amphitheater are arguing that Markowitz’s plan constitutes a change of use for Asser Levy Park and would violate the New York City ordinance prohibiting amplified sound within 500 feet of an active school, courthouse or religious institution.
The borough president said that he never heard of the 500 foot rule before, but that he will be respectful of the two synagogues located across the street from the park – even though the existing bandshell was there first.
“What the lawyers tell me is that even though the bandshell and the park were there before the synagogues, the synagogues had the right to move there and the synagogues can use the rule 500 feet prohibition,” Markowitz said. “I’ve got to figure this out in way that is respectful because I don’t want to start something. Worse comes to worse, and we have to keep the place closed on Saturdays and Saturday nights – I prefer it not – but if it has to be, so be it.”
Markowitz complained that the fight over the planned amphitheater has already exposed him to a level of animosity that he has heretofore never experienced.
“I have saved all the hate mail and threats that people have pointed my way,” the borough president said. “In 31 years of public service I never ever experienced such hate. Something has happened in terms of civility between people. It’s something that I can’t put my finger on, but we’ll get by it.”