Opponents of Borough President Marty Markowitz’s plan to transform Asser Levy Seaside Park into a new kind of Westbury Music Fair are rejoicing this week after the city’s Design Commission decided to table their vote on the controversial plan.
“We’re elated,” Temple Beth Abraham Vice-President Al Turk said. “This is a step in the right direction.”
Critics like Turk, whose synagogue sits just across the street from the site where a new $64 million amphitheater is set to rise near Surf Avenue, maintain that the project threatens to negatively impact the park and destroy the quality of life for its neighbors.
Monday night’s Design Commission hearing at City Hall flew under the radar of many,but nevertheless attracted over a dozen protesters who came to oppose Markowitz’s plan.
Preliminary approval of the project was granted a few months ago despite the absence of an Environmental Assessment.
“I think the commissioners were very concerned about the issues that we raised,” former Community Board 13 member and opposition leader Ida Sanoff said. “I think they realized that they had given preliminary approval for the playground design in a total vacuum - they were totally unaware of the community’s concerns.”
It remains unclearwhether or not the overall amphitheater project will be subjected to the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.
Borough Hall had sought to gain the Design Commission’s okay to revamp and relocate the existing playground located near West 5th Street as a part of that plan.
“The only reason they are even considering renovating the playground is because they have to get it out of the way of the big, fat amphitheater,” Sanoff said.
As a result of this week’s hearing, the commissioners now say they want to hear the proposal to change Asser Levy Park in its entirety - not just the playground component.
“When it looked like it would not go his way, everyone there at the meeting from Markowtiz’s side, the architects and the rest, looked miserable, New York City Park Advocates President Geoffrey Croft said.
Markowitz, however, says that he is “thrilled” that the Design Commission has decided to consider the playground and the overall amphitheater project as “one unit.”
“The playground is a key component of an overall rehabilitation that will ensure Asser Levy will become one of Brooklyn’s most beautiful parks,” the borough president said.
Responding to critics of the plan, Markowtiz says he would “never support anything that would diminish the quality of life for the immediate community surrounding Asser Levy Seaside Park” and that the concerns of both Temple Beth Abraham and the Sea Breeze Jewish Center “must be respected and will be respected.”
“How?” Turk wants to know. “They’re not going to have six Thursday night concerts a year - they’re going to have to have weekends.”
Temple Beth Abraham’s main services are held on Friday nights and Saturday mornings.
While now limited in scope, Markowitz has already indicated that he expects a concert promoter will one day assume control of the popular Asser Levy Seaside Summer Concert Series once he leaves office.
The borough president claims that new sound technology will actually make concerts at the new amphitheater quieter than those now held at the existing bandshell.
But Turk argues that moving the playground will only bring the proposed amphitheater closer to Temple Beth Abraham.
“It’ll be right on top of us,” Turk said.
A New York City ordinance prohibits amplified music 500-feet from active schools and houses of worship.
“It’s going to be very interesting to see how any commission could justify putting that monstrosity in the middle of a quiet neighborhood,” said Croft.