Asser Levy Park Row Gets Noisy
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 Neil Sedaka performed in Coney Island recently, and some Jewish residents of the area weren’t happy about it. Not that they have anything against Sedaka, a 1960s icon who sometimes sings in Yiddish. They mind the noise.

Sedaka’s concert in Asser Levy Park — named for one of the first Jewish settlers of New York City née New Amsterdam — was the latest high-decibel shot between two Jewish politicians (Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz) and two Jewish congregations (Temple Beth Abraham and the Sea Breeze Jewish Center).

The congregations, across the street from the park, sued to prevent an expanded bandshell-amphitheater from being built in the park, where Markowitz has sponsored an annual summer concert series for 20 year. A Brooklyn Supreme Court judge recently ruled that the concerts are in violation of a city noise ordinance; Bloomberg pushed and two weeks ago signed a Council bill that exempts the concert series from the restrictions for 90 days.

The Jewish Week spoke with Mendy Sontag, president of Beth Abraham, about the controversy.

Q: Why are you against the amphitheater?

A: We have [worship] services 365 days a year, and classes. It disturbs our services. It will destroy the quality of life in the neighborhood. It’s absurd.

Have you and other people on your side explained your concerns to the Borough president?

I personally sat with Marty Markowitz. He said he’s going to reconsider the situation. Whatever he said, he went back on his word. He turned this into a Jewish matter; he said [at public events] that the synagogues are trying to stop the concerts.

I decided to fight City Hall.

Is this a Jewish issue, or are you carrying the ball for other upset residents of your neighborhood?

It’s not a Jewish issue. This had never been an issue about religion. It’s about maintaining our community’s precious quality of life. The community came to us to stop [the amphitheater]. It’s shameful to use religion for a personal agenda.

First a judge’s injunction sides with you. Then the City Council passes a bill that makes the injunction moot. Can you — successfully — fight City Hall?

We fought them for a year. The mayor knows that there are close to 15,000 people who signed [a petition] against this. It’s definitely not over.

Do you regret that you’ve had to go to court over this? Would you have preferred quiet diplomacy that isn’t so public and might not leave bitterness on either side?

We didn’t want to go public. We regret going to court. We tried quiet diplomacy with Marty Markowitz. They caused us to go public.

Proponents of the amphitheater say it will create jobs, help the economy and raise the area’s level of culture. Do you leave yourself open to the claim that opponents on the amphitheater aren’t civic-minded?

Do you know what they’re going to do to the area, between parking [problems] and loitering and noise and drinking and prostitution? It’s going to be fantastic for the area.

New York’s already a noisy place, and a certain level of ambient noise is not unknown in some synagogues. How much more bothersome will the amphitheater be?

Very bothersome.

Two synagogues feuding with a Jewish politician over a venue named for one of the city’s first Jewish residents. Only in New York?

Probably only in New York. Maybe also in Israel.

Steve Lipman


Last Update:

09/16/2013 - 18:54

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Hi Mendy Sontag is the President of Seabreeze Jewish Center. Not Temple Beth Abraham as stated in the above article.
Dear Editor: The Administrative Code noise provision protected the synagogues from intrusive noise produced by the loud rock concerts that Borough President Markowitz provided. He now intends to increase the number of noisy concerts ten-fold with the new amphitheater he plans to build in Asser Levy Park that will take up a third of the open space in the nine acre neighborhhood park. Open green space should not be replaced by a building that produces illegal noisy concerts. The quality of life of the elderly residents who live in the highrise buildings surrounding the park will be severely impacted by the increased traffic and noise. Emergency vehicles are slowed down by the heavy traffic to the area. It is a poor choice to place such a venue in a densly populated area.
The author has to be corrected. Mendy Sontag is President of Sea Breeze Jewish Center & not Beth Abraham. Secondly, the lawsiut was not to prevent the expansion of the Bandshell, it was filed to enforce the law on the books at the time called the " 500 foot rule" . It basically stated that NO AMPLIFIED SOUND can be made witin 500 feet of a Church, Synagogue, School, Court House of Hospital. BP Marty Markowitz was in violation of this law for over 19 years. Since he was giving the concerts at Seaside Park. ( Asser Levy Park). But since the author has brought up the proposed Amphitheater, he omitted some facts. The new Amphitheater will have over 8000 seats. Take up more than 65-70% of Open Space Parkland. They will COST money to go see the concerts at the new venue. They WILL NOT be FREE anymore. Costs for concerts if you look at Madison Square Garden, Jones Beach, PNC Bank venues range from $ 75-125 per ticket. How would any want a concert series of 4-5 months long with over 40,000 people , 4-5 days a week right in your backyard ? There is no parking as it is in the neighborhood, Not every neighborhood in NYC has to be converted into Times Square venue. Peple like the Park the way it is. Active fro Kids to play in for skateboarding etc., dog lovers like it to walk their furry friends, senoir citizens like it to sit, walk & just plain chillout. This boondoggle of a venue is just not for this bedroom community. Let's improve the Park, Let's improve the playground but le us keep the footprint of the current Park the same as it now.

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