Borough President Markowitz is now pitching his controversial Coney amphitheater plan as an economic development project for the neighborhood’s impoverished residential area — where locals have attacked the project and complained of being neglected in favor of amusements.
“All of this for them,” said Markowitz in a presentation to the City Planning Commission about the project he hopes will permanent home for his seaside summer concert series.
The Beep argued at the Oct. 23 hearing that sinking $50 million in city funds into transforming the empty, landmarked Childs Building on the Boardwalk into an upscale eatery and concert venue would benefit residents by ensuring continued public investment in the area.
“This will continue to focus the city’s attention on the dire needs of Coney Island,” Markowitz told the commission, the oversight agency which will vote on whether to approve the project in December.
Markowitz claimed that the new restaurant and concert space would spark investment in new housing and local businesses by bringing even bigger crowds into Coney Island. The pol said this would mean more tax revenue, and would force the city to repair and maintain the People’s Playground’s long-suffering public infrastructure.
Coney residents have complained for years that the local sewer system backs up and floods the streets during rainstorms — and to especially devastating effect during Hurricane Sandy.
“As more development comes, as more retail comes in, that means the city will continue to invest money, because they’re getting money in return,” Markowitz argued. “They’ll have to fix the infrastructure because businesses and residents will need it.”
The Beep also said the new venue would provide 150 construction jobs and 275 permanent positions for the residents of Coney Island, many of whom live in public housing still struggling with mold and power outages almost a year after superstorm Sandy.
“It’s unfortunate for the people who live there, but New York City’s public housing is very troubled,” said Markowitz, who grew up in a housing project in Crown Heights.
But members of the People’s Coalition of Coney Island — an alliance of community groups claiming that post-Sandy relief efforts have unfairly focused on the amusement area at the expense of residents — argued that the $50 million would be better spent repairing still-defunct youth centers and other neighborhood resources put out of commission by Sandy.
“Coney Island has not recovered, and this is not the way to bring a recovery,” said neighborhood native Ann Valdez.
Other members of the Coalition complain that the city has not informed and engaged the community about the project, and raised fears that the only long-term jobs it creates will be low-paying service positions.
“People are not aware that this is going on. Let us know first, let us put our input in. Don’t just spoon-feed us whatever you want to give us,” said activist Sheila Smalls.
Community Board 13 voted against the amphitheater in September under pressure from residents.