Prisoners from Rikers Island have been assembling and disassembling the thousands of chairs used in the summer concerts at Asser Levy Park as part of a labor assignment. Brooklyn Borough President Markowitz said he began using prison labor as a cost saving measure after singer Curtis Mayfied sued when he was paralyzed in 1990 when stage lighting equipment fell on him during a Markowitz sponsored concert at Wingate Field.
Both the Beep and the city Department of Corrections today shot down a published report claiming DOC is cutting the cord next year on supplying Rikers Island inmates to set up tables and chairs at Markowitz’s annual summer concerts series in Coney Island and East Flatbush.
Debra Garcia, who runs the nonprofit group that organizes the concerts, said it plans to “seek assistance again” in 2011 from city inmates. If that fails, it would try tapping into free labor from state or federal inmates.
DOC spokesman Sharman Stein declined to say whether the Riker’s Island inmates would be offered next year because the Beep's concert promoters have yet to formally ask about 2011, but she added “we were happy to help this year.”
Garcia said she has not been informed that the city prisoners won't be available next year.
The concerts, held at Asser Levy Park in Coney Island and Wingate Park in East Flatbush, had quietly relied on state prisoners for nearly two decades until state cuts led to city inmates being tapped this year.
The practice of bussing in inmates suddenly became controversial after it was adopted as an issue by Brighton Beach residents fighting a planned new $64 million amphitheater at Asser Levy Park, fearing it will attract bigger, nosy crowds.
Residents also said the Riker’s inmates bright red-and-white-striped jumpsuits made them stick out, causing some concern about safety issues.