By Stephen Witt
Creation of a state-of-the-art amphitheatre at Coney Island’s Asser Levy-Seaside Park is not a huge stretch as the park has been having successful concerts in its bandshell for a number of years. The idea was floated around and highlighted during Borough President Marty Markowitz’s recent State of the Borough address, recently given at the Brooklyn Navy Yard’s Steiner Studios. “This Coney Island Performing Arts Center will be a state-of-the art, covered outdoor venue that will attract top entertainers who now play the summer concert circuit at Jones Beach, the Westbury Theater, and the PNC Bank Arts Center in New Jersey,” said Markowitz. “Soon, when we want to see the best concerts, we won’t have to go to Long Island, or New Jersey, or even Manhattan—we can enjoy them right here in Brooklyn,” he added. While Markowitz said the plan is still in the embryonic stage, City Council member Domenic Recchia said he already put $1 million in the 2006 city capital budget for the project. “I think it will be great for the community and we won’t have to cancel concerts in the summer,” said Recchia. “It will be a cover on the current bandshell with seating for 5,000,” he added. Both Recchia and Markowitz have been sponsoring regular summer concerts for a number of years featuring such performers as Liza Minnelli, Kenny Rogers and Patti LaBelle. According to Community Board 13 District Manager Chuck Reichenthal, the summer concert series already draws upwards of 5,000 people, many of whom pay between $5 and $10 to sit in a fenced in area of the park. Other people enjoy the concerts from outside of the fenced in area, or sometimes as far away as the Coney Island boardwalk, he said. Reichenthal said since Markowitz’s announcement nobody from the community board has discussed it as of yet, but the office has received some phone calls about it. Most of the calls were complaints about losing some parkland as the park is very popular for soccer players, dog walkers and seniors, Reichenthal said. Complaints were also raised about the ever-prevalent traffic and parking problems, he added. Reichenthal said the bandshell is named for Sidney Jonas, a local resident who lobbied hard for it when it was built in the 1960s. Over the years it has been renovated and enlarged several times, most recently nine years ago, he added. Reichenthal said he is not sure if CB 13 will have a say in any plans to make it into an amphitheatre. It is in the Parks Department purview, he said. A Parks Department Spokesperson referred all calls on the matter to the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC). EDC Spokesperson Janel Patterson said the department is aware of the idea and currently evaluating it.