Retractable Roof could cover Coney Island Amphitheater

 
November 8, 2009
The costs for a controversial plan to build a $64 million amphitheater in Coney Island could balloon further as city officials are now considering topping it off with a retractable roof.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz confirmed he's "actively pursuing the possibility of adding a retractable cover" to his taxpayer-funded, 8,000-seat amphitheater plan for Asser Levy Park in a recent letter to a project objector obtained by the Post.

Designers initially considered a retractable roof when Markowitz first pitched his pet project in 2006 but opted to go with a permanent canopy to cover the open-air project because a retractable roof was deemed too costly. At the time, the project's estimated cost was $40 million.

Adding a retractable roof would likely increase construction fees by at least $3.5 million, sources said. And that doesn't include anticipated increases in daily maintenance costs to deal with the seaside's corrosive air.

Markowitz is reviewing whether including the retractable roof is feasible and if funding is available.

The project one of the few pieces of the city's Coney Island redevelopment plan that is on a fast track would replace a 66,000-square-foot band shell already used for Markowitz's summer concert series with a modern 87,200-square foot open-air amphitheater.

It would be topped by 60,000-square roof that Markowitz's staff says is shaped like a "hyperbolic paraboloid," but in layman's terms looks more like a massive potato chip made of steel and fiberglass and flooded with hundreds of stage lights.

But whether it is retractable is anyone's guess.

Markowitz in the Oct. 15 letter to Marvin "Mendy" Sontag, president of the Sea Breeze Jewish Center, pitched the retractable roof as a compromise since Sontag and other project opponents prefer a design with only a stage roof.

While a majority of Coney Island boardwalk business owners support Markowitz's amphitheater, many Brighton Beach residents who reside in the high-rises next to Asser Levy Park vehemently oppose it.

They say it is too large, would reduce parkland, and the noise blasting from concerts would overwhelm both residents and the worshipers of two nearby synagogues.

And although some opponents see the retractable roof as a gesture of good faith by Markowitz, others say the plan is still too overwhelming.

"It is just too damn big," said Ida Sanoff, a former member of Brooklyn Community Board 13. "The borough president and mayor are just not listening to the community because we have over 10,000 signatures saying we don't want this."

Geoffrey Croft of the watchdog New York City Park Advocates, who got involved over the potential loss of active recreation space at Asser Levy, said a majority of "the community doesn't want the roof, retractable or not."

The project is currently not in line to undergo the city's extensive Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), although a Parks Department official said no decision has yet been made.

Provided ULURP is not used, the city's Arts Commission is expected to sign off on it by the end of the year.

The project's first phase, to build a new playground, is expected to kickoff in the spring and be completed by next fall. By late next year, construction would begin on the amphitheater, so it can be finished in 2012. Besides the playground and amphitheater, the project also calls for new bathrooms and other park upgrades.

"The goal of this project is to renovate the park and ensure it is not only a welcoming eastern gateway to a revitalized Coney Island, but a place where families and residents ... can enjoy recreation as well as the free music and cultural programming that residents have taken pleasure in over the years," the borough president said.

Markowitz is using $54 million of his office's capital improvement funds for the project, while the mayor's office is kicking in $10 million.



Retractable Roof could cover Coney Island Amphitheater
By Rich Calder - New York Post