Boardwalk Gardeners Say Childs Theater Amphitheater Plan Violates State Parkland Regulations

People’s Playground planters say Childs Plan eating parkland without proper approvals

Mapped: This map of parkland from the city's website clearly shows the Childs building lot between West 21 Street and West 22 Street, circled, marked as parkland.
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The Council voted to approve Borough President Markowitz’s dream of constructing an amphitheater in Coney Island’s Childs Building — but a technicality could still derail the plan, say the keepers of a garden the project would uproot.

Representatives of the Boardwalk Garden, a W. 22nd community garden the project would plow under, claim that the new venue would eat up chunks of city parkland — meaning the proposal cannot move forward without state approval. But the Parks Department says that none of the parcels are parkland — despite city maps showing the exact opposite.

Markowitz is pushing the city to approve a deal with iStar Financial, owners of the landmarked Childs Building, that would convert the 90-year-old Boardwalk icon into a permanent home for his summer concert series. Under the agreement, the city would buy the building off iStar and convert it into a music hall and restaurant — and turn the Boardwalk Garden and two parcels along W. 23rd Street into seating and a sprawling, landscaped lawn. The city would then lease the property to iStar for the company to operate until 2025 — which garden advocates say constitutes “parkland alienation,” and comes with a bundle of state regulations.

“Parkland is a public trust,” said Ray Figueroa of the New York Community Gardens Coalition, which is representing the People’s Playground plowsmen. “Just like with a landmark, you can’t just build on it without going through an onerous process.”

Figueroa pointed to state statutes requiring a two-thirds vote of the Council to request permission to lease city parkland, and then passage of a law by the state legislature before such a plan can go forward.

No such steps have been taken on the amphitheater plan. The laws also mandate that the lessee make a substantial investment in the park, but under the current proposal, the city will fund all renovations.

But the city claims that no parkland is involved in the project.

“It is important to note that this property is not, nor was it ever, mapped parkland,” deputy commissioner for Parks Larry Blackmon told the Council’s Zoning and Franchises Subcommittee on Dec. 17.

But city zoning maps clearly show the lots between W. 22rd and W. 23rd streets zoned as parks. And a city map of open spaces in the area shows the garden parcels as parkland. Nonetheless, the city still insisted the area was not parkland when shown its own documents.

“While the map identifies park space, that does not mean that the sites on that map are indeed officially mapped as parkland,” said Parks spokeswoman Meghan Lalor.

But the amphitheater appears to be moving forward anyway. The City Planning Commission unanimously endorsed the project earlier this month. Councilman Domenic Recchia (D–Coney Island) has backed the proposal, and the Council’s Land Use Committee followed the local representa­tive’s lead on Dec. 18.

The full Council voted nearly unanimously to approve the plan on Thursday — its last day of business before the new Council is sworn in next year.

The sole dissenting vote was outgoing Councilman Charles Barron (D–East Flatbush).

The win for Markowitz came after Community Board 13 voted against the amphitheater in September under pressure from residents who feared the area couldn’t handle the noise and traffic such an theater would inevitably bring.

Now, it seems the only obstacle that could stand in the way is a potential lawsuit by the gardeners.

City records show that the Parks Department first granted growers access to the lot along W. 22nd Street in 1997. Two years later, the city kicked the planters out in order to convert the parcel into a parking lot for MCU Park, then under construction. But the garden was never paved and the dozens of seed-sowers returned — though without official city sanction. The gardeners insist they are not opposed to the Childs Building project, but want the city to provide an equivalent area for them to use. The city has offered them a stake in another space on W. 29th Street and Surf Avenue, but the planters complain that the proffered parcel is substantially smaller than their current spot, paved over, and already home to two-dozen other gardeners.

“It’s a concrete jungle over there,” said Boardwalk Gardener Yuri Opendik. “It’s not a pleasant place to be, and it’s not a comfortable site for growing vegetables.”

This is not the first time Marty’s amphitheater dreams have run afoul of residents — or attempted to appropriate public park land. Markowitz tried — and failed — in 2009 to construct a building in Asser Levy Park to house his summer concert series. Public protest blocked the structure — widely mocked for resembling a potato chip. Markowitz announced his recent plan to transform the Childs Building into a performance space at his 2013 State of the Borough address.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at
Updated 10:16 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Marsha Rimler from Brooklyn says:
Lets stop this monument that Marty wants for himself. Look at all the money Helen Marshall gave to libraries in Queens. Thats is Marty's failure. Its hard to believe Marty started our as a housing organizer. Just shows you what too many years in politics does to your mind.
Dec. 19, 2013, 6:18 am
legal beagle from bow-wow-wow says:
CB13 voted FOR the amphitheater at yesterday's Brooklyn Borough Board meeting.
Dec. 19, 2013, 10:05 am
o3 from bk says:
"Two years later, the city kicked the planters out in order to convert the parcel into a parking lot for MCU Park"

now that's some park alienation!
Dec. 19, 2013, 10:44 am
greg from Brooklyn says:
A map does not create a park.
Dec. 19, 2013, 11:32 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
The reason it will be seen as alienation to the park is because during the time it's not being used, it will just be seen as a waste of space.
Dec. 19, 2013, 3:08 pm
ty from pps says:
Like you?
Dec. 19, 2013, 4:34 pm
Beverly says:
Ooh, tal Got burnt!

But honestly, this garden is totally useless and the Child's building is sadly unused and full of potential. There's dozens of locations for gardens in coney island. I have never ever seen anyone using, enjoying or Carina about this garden. Almost every house in coney has a garden too, so it's not like there's a lack of them. I think it's absurd of anyone to stand in the way of this.
Dec. 19, 2013, 7:41 pm
Ed from Bay Ridge says:
Tal says: "The reason it will be seen as alienation to the park is because during the time it's not being used, it will just be seen as a waste of space."

That's nonsense. "Alienation" has nothing to do with "waste of space." It's a legal term meaning property transfer/conveyance, and parkland alienation means (you guessed it!) transferring parkland for nonpark use.

That specific argument is baseless, since it ignores the parcel's longtime official nonpark designation. But at least I know what the proponents are arguing.
Dec. 19, 2013, 10:54 pm
marsha rimler says:
ogoodbye to marty and his ;obnoxious voice..he is a very bad emblem of brooklyn . i wish him a long and quiet retirement
Dec. 20, 2013, 11:45 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I take it that anyone who supports this amphitheater either has connections or has probably some gig planned for it when it gets built hence some of the insults.
Dec. 20, 2013, 4:09 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
We need more roads for cars, which grows our economy, and less wasted space for recreation, which shrinks it. This is a complete waste of resources. It would be simplest if they just banned pedestrians on the majority of roads, b/c there are far more drivers anyway, and for the greater efficiency for the city as a whole, they should increase speed limits for cars, while banning bicycles and pedestrians from most roads. After all most of them simply use the streets to jay ride their bikes or jay walk across the road while flagarantly ignoring all the rules and abiding by right of ways.
I have nothing people who disagree with me, but when they call me an idiot for having a different view, that is where the personal attacks are made. On a side note, I don't drive an SUV either, I drive a Honda Civic, which is a compact car, which debunks your claim on me as always.
Dec. 20, 2013, 4:11 pm
ty from pps says:
(you should have integrated the word "flouting" a few times)
Dec. 20, 2013, 5:13 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Leave it to people like ty for making such impersonations, which actually makes him look bad.
Dec. 20, 2013, 6:07 pm
ty from pps says:
Tal -- I've never impersonated you. Your comments are far too advanced for me to ever emulate such intelligence and complex thought.

I did, however, suggest ways to improve the impersonation. Heavy use of "flouting" and bad grammar are mainstays, of course.
Dec. 20, 2013, 7:43 pm
ty from pps says:
Good use of "debunk" above, though.
Dec. 20, 2013, 7:43 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
If you look at the map above, where the amphitheater is, you will see that it will be taking up a lot of space, which is why I said it will be a waste of space in the time it won't be used during the year hence my point.
Dec. 20, 2013, 9:06 pm
Ed from Bay Ridge says:
Wrong, Tal.
Property "alienation" is a very specific legal term, meaning that ownership and control have been transferred.
That's exactly how the plan's opponents used the term.

You said "the reason it will be seen as alienation to the park is because during the time it's not being used, it will just be seen as a waste of space."

That is not the reason. It would be "parkland alienation" because OWNERSHIP AND CONTROL WERE TRANSFERRED, not because others now viewed it as wasted space.
Dec. 20, 2013, 11:06 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Ed, you miss the point entirely. This amphitheater was highly opposed from the start by the community and even by local politicians as well. A lot of them felt that their tax dollars could have been spent on something that actually serves them rather than this boondoggle. Just like many other projects that got high opposition, they use the approach such as backroom deals that side step the public. Last time I checked, that space it's going in is considered parkland no matter how much you try to dismiss that.
Dec. 21, 2013, 6:08 pm
ty from pps says:
Man... I really dislike Marty Markowitz, but when I read dummy Tal's comments, I really can help but have a knee jerk reaction to take the opposite position. It's like finding out the KKK support your position -- the right end result, but just a whole lot of brain-dead thoughts along the way. (Yes, Tal, I'm comparing you to the KKK. Whatcha think of that?)

Don't you just love statements like Tal's last sentence... "Last time I checked..." -- Where Tal? Where did you check? When was the last time you were at the City Surveyor's Office doing research?
Dec. 22, 2013, 10:01 am
nancy from coney says:
I am in Coney alot there are plenty of spots for these people to have a garden. Theres a spot up the block around west 21or 22 with a huge garden I dont see the need for one by the building. Opening up the Childs and that little spot will create so much opportunities for Coneys community.
Dec. 22, 2013, 10:06 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Nancy, something very similar was said with the Atlantic Yards with so much opportunities being promised after it was built, and you should know what happened after that especially if you want a repeat of that.
Dec. 22, 2013, 6:16 pm
ty from pps says:
Tal -- Have you even been in the vicinity of the Atlantic Yards lately?! Could you give me specific examples of the collapsing economy around there? What I see are lots of new small businesses, old businesses that have renovated, and more in the pipeline....

Again, have you even been there in, say, the last year, Mr. Tal "KKK" Barzilai?
Dec. 22, 2013, 8:07 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Ty, read the Atlantic Yards Report for what really went on, and the amphitheater will also be a lot of broken promises as well. Most of those businesses are nothing but chains and corporations rather than small and local businesses. As for you relating me to the KKK, and I can easily relate you to Robert Mugabe, and there are probably many things he would say that you would agree with.
Dec. 22, 2013, 8:50 pm
bkdude64 from bk says:
Ty that was funny.
Dec. 22, 2013, 9:08 pm
ty from pps says:
So, Tal, no specific examples eh? Which "chains and corporations" are you talking about? Hmm, Tal? Or are you just being your typical self?

Also, you STILL haven't told me how to get on Ratner's payroll. Like I've said, I could use the extra cash. Why are you keeping this a secret from me -- especially during this, the holiday season.
Dec. 23, 2013, 9:35 am
Tal Barzilai from Plesantville, NY says:
Ty, I take it that you just love all the humble pie and kool-aid that developers are giving you, which is why you can never be against them.
Dec. 23, 2013, 3:44 pm
ty from pps says:
Tal -- I'm against YOU. But, convince me. Provide actual examples and details, not just your usual stream of semi-consciousness.

(p.s., You last comment was just stupid.)
Dec. 23, 2013, 6:13 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I have already explained that on the last article to understand, but you do have a history of going into denial and acting defensive, not to mention resorting to personal attacks, which is what limits any credibility you have.
Dec. 23, 2013, 7 pm

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