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Old Posted Jun 2, 2009, 12:23 AM
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Planners try to hush critics on Coney concert arena noise

BY Elizabeth Hays
May 31st 2009

A $64 million concert hall planned for a Coney Island park will actually be quieter for nearby neighbors than the small existing bandshell, planners told the Daily News.

"The same concert turned to the same volume won't sound as loud," said Mark Husser, an architect at Grimshaw, the international firm drawing up plans for the proposed Coney Island Center inside Asser Levy Park.

Husser said the proposed amphitheater - championed by Borough President Marty Markowitz - will feature state-of-the-art sound equipment and design that focuses the sound toward the audience, not nearby homes.

Concerts at the existing bandshell, where Markowitz has hosted free outdoor concerts since 1991, use older equipment that "blasts out in all directions," said Husser.

Markowitz is working to head off criticism of the project in the surrounding area - and appeared to be taking the local outcry personally.

"Our first responsibility is to the residents in that neighborhood," said Markowitz, who is paying for most of the project out of his budget.

The borough president said he was "surprised" and "hurt" by local critics who have charged the arena is too big and loud and will overwhelm the sleepy neighborhood park.

"It's hurtful because I don't deserve it," said Markowitz. "I've entertained the people in that neighborhood since 1991. I've put a smile on their face for 31 years. Why would I want them to frown?"

A pair of synagogues across Sea Breeze Ave. from the park also charge it will disrupt religious services, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights.

They have vowed to use a little-known law that bans amplified sound within 500 feet of religious institutions while services are in session to block the project.

Markowitz accused critics of spreading distortions about the project to fuel the opposition.

"People believe we're taking away the park. We're not - we're going to make an unbelievable park," he added, promising, "We're not going to have concerts every night," as many locals fear.

Markowitz's planners said the amphitheater is modeled after the Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago, known for its free outdoor concerts - and not a money-making venue such as the one at Jones Beach.

Markowitz envisions a mix of free and paid shows at the venue, which will be operated by the Parks Department.

Construction on the project, slated to begin this fall and be completed by summer 2012, also includes major work to deal with chronic flooding throughout the park and a brand-new Coney Island-themed playground for kids.

The amphitheater itself - which is designed to invoke the flight of the Parachute Jump - will include 5,000 fixed seats and a grassy lawn that can hold up to 3,000 more people.

Planners said there will be another open lawn area to the east of the amphitheater, and the refurbished park will include as many benches and even more walkways than it now has. In the off-season, the amphitheater's fixed seats can be removed to make way for an ice skating rink or skateboard park, they added.

But local critics said the plan was still too much for the park. "We don't need this. We have benches and walkways now," said Ida Sanoff, who has been leading the opposition.

"It's going to be like a spaceship plunked down in the middle of a park across from people's bedrooms."
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