“I appreciate your views. I may very well, if I lived in the neighborhood, feel exactly the same way.” – Mayor Bloomberg on community outrage over Marty Markowitz's plan to build a, massive $ 64 million amphitheater in Asser Levy Park.
July 12, 2010 - City Hall. More than 70 opponents packed the Blue Room to denounce the controversial bill. (photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates)
By Geoffrey Croft
Mayor Michael Bloomberg was all set to sign a controversial bill yesterday afternoon to change a law prohibiting amplified music within 500 feet of a school or religious institution, but instead he postponed signing the measure into law after questions were raised over the bill’s legality and compliance issues.
The bill would allow a series of concerts, including those sponsored by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, to proceed this summer in Brooklyn’s Asser Levy Park, just across the street from two synagogues. The concerts come just before Markowitz plans to replace the park’s bandshell with a $64 million, paid-seating amphitheater.
More than 70 opponents packed the City Hall Blue Room to denounce the bill. Dozens of Brighton Beach and Coney Island residents, including representatives from Sea Breeze Jewish Center and Temple Beth Abraham, spoke out against the legislation, saying they felt targeted. Speaker after speaker – surrounded by administration officials, including City lawyers and security personnel – spoke passionately about the impact of the concerts (and the planned amphitheater) on their religious services and quality of life. The speakers urged the mayor not to sign the bill – and it worked, until today, when Bloomberg is expected to go ahead with the dubious legislation.
The synagogues’ attorney, Norman Siegel, spoke last. He posed a series of questions to Bloomberg:
1. Will this new law apply to any location other than the bandshell in Asser Levy Park, or is this a law exclusive to this one location? "We've asked this question numerous times including in the court proceedings, nobody knows the answer. If its only for Asser Levy than we've got a legal problem."
2. Siegel asked whether the legislation had any written guidelines to ensure compliance, other than the promise of self-certification. "There is technical information here that needs to be acquired prior to the concert. We can't just allow the sponsor to say we are going to comply,” Siegel said. “How are we assured prior to the concerts, that the sponsor will not exceed the ten decibel level over the ambient sound?”
3. Who is going to enforce this temporary law for the stated 90 days? Will the city be there to enforce the law?
Siegel then suggested that if the city could not answer these questions then the mayor should postpone the signing for a day or two to get the answers. The mayor agreed to put it off a day.
"Now that the issue is before us, rather than deal with it, and some of the questions that are being raised are legitimate questions, but in the context of how it’s coming up, it just looks like its unfair and its a favoritism to the Borough President," Siegel said.
Norman Siegel. (top) Mayor Bloomberg (Bottom). "Rather than complying with the law we are changing the law," said Lawyer Norman Siegel. "In affect by signing the law you'll be legitimizing an illegality. The Mayor delayed the bill's signing for a day and said he would double check to see if the bill would withstand a legal challenge. Not one of the bill's sponsors attended the signing ceremony.
"I will double check and see if, number one, the bill is drafted legally and will withstand a challenge," said Bloomberg. He also promised that the standards of the bill would be followed. The mayor agreed to monitor the noise levels and said that if the concerts violated the noise levels then they would not be able to have another concert.
"I will impress on the Borough President that we are deadly serious and we are going to enforce this."
Bloomberg also tried to distance himself from Markowitz’s $64 million amphitheater in the park, even though the mayor has allocated $10 million to the project. Numerous alternative locations have been proposed for the shows, but Bloomberg said he couldn't recall ever speaking to Markowitz about the issue.
"We do need venues for entertainment,” the mayor said. “There are lots of different ones, I don't know why Marty seems to be so focused on this one. He may have good reasons. I don't think I've ever talked to him about the subject."
Last week, when asked to comment on allegations that the mayor cut a deal with Markowitz to change the law in order to circumvent the 500-foot rule, Bloomberg denied it:
"The bottom line is, there is no deal, I haven't talked to Marty Markowitz about this, I'm sure staffs talk all the time, our staff, the City Council's, the Borough President's."
On Thursday, June 17, a lawsuit was filed in Brooklyn Supreme Court seeking to prevent the City of New York and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz from violating a NYC Law prohibiting amplified sound within 500 feet of religious institutions, schools, hospitals, schools and courthouses. On June 30th, a Brooklyn Supreme Court judge issued a preliminary injunction requiring the City and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz to comply with the 500 foot rule regarding amplified sound.
However, Queens Council member Peter Vallone at Bloomberg's request, introduced legislation to exempt Asser Levy Park from the existing law. Opponents of the fast-tracked bill argue this is an end-run around the existing law.
Bloomberg and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz want to build a $64 million, eight thousand seat amphitheater in Asser Levy/Seaside Park, right across the street from Sea Breeze Jewish Center and Temple Beth Abraham. In violation of the law, these concerts have coincided with the hours of worship of Plaintiff Congregation Sea Breeze Jewish Center and with the hours of worship of Plaintiff Congregation Temple Beth Abraham. The two synagogues are approx. 300 feet away.
The suit was brought against defendants the City of New York and Brooklyn Borough President, Martin Markowitz, with regard to the violation of Title 10, Chapter 1, Section 10-108 (g) of the New York City Administrative Code, and Title 38, Chapter 8, Section 8-06 of the Rules and Regulations of the City of New York (together, the “Code”), which prohibit the use of electronic sound amplification equipment at any location within 500 feet of houses of worship during hours of worship. Plaintiffs are directly and adversely affected by the Defendants’ annual operation of the Parks Department band shell in Asser Levy Park, which comes within 500 feet of Plaintiffs’ houses of worship, as a concert and event venue using electronic sound amplification equipment.
"Rather than complying with the law we are changing the law," said Lawyer Norman Siegel. "in affect by signing the law you'll be legitimizing an illegality.
After the hearing, the unsigned legislation was swiftly removed from the table.
NY1 - July 12, 2010
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