Skip to main content

Markowitz's expensive, publicly-funded monument: Ford Amphitheater in Coney Island, with (fewer) concerts and FCR's continued support

Photos by Norman Oder
The summer concert season in Coney Island is both bigger and smaller than when Borough President Marty Markowitz was in charge, though that's not quite successor Eric Adams's fault.

A new, not-quite-finished, 5000-seat Ford Amphitheater opened in late June at the Coney Island boardwalk, built at West 21st Street into the landmarked Child's Restaurant building, which awaits restoration, and covering what was once a community garden.

This venue, programmed by Live Nation and with Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment as a partner, has a busy summer season. But the free Seaside Summer Concert Series, along with the Martin Luther King Jr. Concert Series (in Flatbush/Wingate), is somewhat truncated.

The cloud over contributions

As the 7/1/16 Brooklyn Paper reported, Beep Adams: Free concert series not so free, because sponsors fear non-profits amid citywide corruption probes:
Coney Island’s once-free Seaside Concert Series will now cost you — because private sponsors are scared to give money to non-profits amid ongoing government corruption probes, Borough President Adams said.
“When we call up these corporate entities and say, ‘Listen, we want these free concerts for the residents of Coney Island and Flatbush,’ they have already read stories and say, ‘We don’t want to donate to those anymore,’ ” Borough President Adams told this paper.
For more than 30 years, the non-profit Seaside Summer Concert Series Inc. has brought about a half-dozen free shows a season to the People’s Playground. 
But this time, only three will be gratis — and three others will cost upwards of $25. The 5,000-seat venue will give away 1,000 free tickets for each of the three paid shows, but anyone hoping to snag a pass will have to line up on the Boardwalk at noon two days before the concerts — often on weekdays. 

Same sponsors

Seaside partial sponsor
list; Forest City at top
Rest assured, Forest City Ratner, for years Brooklyn's leading developer, is still a sponsor and in fact is listed first on the Seaside web site. The Seaside Concert Series also thanked some smaller local sponsors for a recent show.

Forest City is listed second, after Applebee's, on the MLK Concerts web site.

By the way, according to the Brooklyn Paper, "Adams blamed overzealous good-government groups for creating a chilling affect among sponsors."

Oh sure.

Good-government groups in New York City are not too strong. Maybe he meant federal prosecutors.

The backstory

Like a lot of construction projects in New York, this was delayed, as the venue, as noted in the Wall Street Journal, was supposed to open in 2015. It barely passed a safety inspection, as the Bensonhurst Bean reported.

When Markowitz toured the venue at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, as the Bensonhurst Bean reported, he called such a rain-resistant venue t a "dream come true," though he said he wished it was even bigger.

“There is a place in this world for sheer force of will. And for vision and for love of your borough and your people. So, my dear friends, let’s thank Marty Markowitz,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said, according to the report.

The Child's building awaits restoration
"This is now the home of the seaside summer concert series,” said Markowitz's successor Adams, according to the report. “This will bring families together. That’s what Brooklyn was always about. That’s what my predecessor understood.”

What Adams and Markowitz also understand is that giving away fun free stuff solidifies support from voters.

Hence a robocall I got from Adams as well as an email from him announcing the concerts.

The Barclays Center connection

As to Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, well, check the press release:
Tri-State Ford Dealers is the naming rights partner of the new 5,000-seat covered open-air venue, the first of its kind in the Tri-State area. The naming rights partnership was secured by Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, which manages and controls Barclays Center, the Brooklyn Nets, and the New York Islanders business operations.
Yes, people do drive to Coney Island, but there's a massive subway terminus, with four subway lines and eight tracks. Is driving a Ford the first thing people think of when Brooklyn or Coney Island comes to mind?

The boondoggle

The fun stuff is a distraction. As Neil deMause wrote in the 6/21/16 Village Voice, Behold: Coney Island's $61 Million Amphitheater Boondoggle, the deal looks sketchy:
Waiting to get into the amphitheater
The amphitheater is the result of a complicated partnership between the city Economic Development Corporation (EDC), financier and developer iStar, and Live Nation, the live-events giant that is in a never-ending war with rival behemoth AEG to dominate the concert world. In a convoluted transaction, iStar is providing the property, and Live Nation its particular brand of mass-market expertise; the city, meanwhile, pays $61.4 million in cash to buy the site from iStar and immediately lease it back to the developer, which will control and operate the amphitheater for the next ten years.
That's a sizable contribution of taxpayer money for a project that was initially intended to be a "community arts center" and has since evolved into a for-profit music venue akin to the Jones Beach Theater. 
Moreover, it's a stunning $50 million allotment from Markowitz's capital budget, which could have been used for things like, oh, libraries or affordable housing.

What's next?

Looking at Child's, toward the boardwalk
The Commercial Observer, in a 7/13/16 article asked Coney Baloney: Will Big Developers Ever Build Their Dreamlands in Coney Island?

The answer is that some milestones, such as the 2001 opening of KeySpan Park (now MCU Park), the 2009 rezoning, and the 2010 opening of Luna Park (which updated and replaced what was on the Astroland site), and the 2013 lighting of the Parachute Jump weren't enough.

The Commercial Observer doesn't even think the new amphitheater cuts it (and they're right):
All these theories have merit, but the big projects—the ones intended to make Coney Island a 365-day entertainment zone, such as a luxury hotel, an indoor waterpark, a movie theater, a conference center and shiny high-rise condominiums—have been stuck in an endless holding pattern for years and probably won’t break out any time soon.
Part of that, however, is because developer Joe Sitt of Thor Equities--who's put Coney Island Art Walls on a key Stillwell Avenue site between the subway and the boardwalk as a placeholder--still wants to wrangle zoning changes for a hotel and a movie theater on land with precious amusement zoning. (See Tricia Vita's coverage on Amusing the Zillion.)

Also coming is a renovation of a $157 million New York Aquarium renovation, aimed for 2017. Pending is a plan to renovate the long-closed (and landmarked) Shore Theater on Surf Avenue opposite the subway station and turn it into a hotel or entertainment space.

(Here's coverage of that hotel plan, from Bensonhurst Bean.)

Coney, as Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President Carlo Scissura pointed out, still lacks a year round hotel, with conference space. Meanwhile, much of the surrounding area suffers from significant poverty, and is still recovering from Superstorm Sandy.

Markowitz, who heads outer-borough promotion at NYC & Company, still thinks big, according to the Commercial Observer:
“We will have indoor amusements and a hotel and convention center,” Markowitz said. “There are so many things that are yet to come, and people will invest there if they know there is a market for it. Not everyone has a home in the Hamptons.” 
The only question that remains: When?
Indeed.





Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

No, security guards can't ban photos. Questions remain about visibility of ID/sticker system.

The bi-monthly Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Community Update meeting June 14, held at 55 Hanson Place, addressed multiple issues, including delays in the project, a new detente with project neighbors,concerns about traffic congestion, upcoming sewer work and demolitions, and an explanation of how high winds caused debris to fly off the under-construction 38 Sixth Avenue building. I'll have more coverage.
Security issues came up several times at the meeting.
Wayne Bailey, a resident who regularly takes photos and videos (that I often use) of construction/operations issues that impact residents, asked representatives of Tishman Construction if the security guard at the sites they're building works for them.
After Tishman Senior VP Eric Reid said yes, Bailey asked why a guard told him not to shoot video of the site, even though he was on a public street.

"I will address it with principals for that security firm," Reid said.
Forest City Ratner executive Ashley Cotton, the …

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park graphic: what's built/what might be coming (post-dated pinned post)

This graphic, posted in November 2017, is post-dated to stay at the top of the blog. It will be updated as announced configurations change and buildings launch. Note the unbuilt B1 and the proposed shift in bulk to the unbuilt Site 5.

The August 2014 tentative configurations proposed by developer Greenland Forest City Partners will change. The project is already well behind that tentative timetable.

The previous graphic, from August 2017 (without the ghost B1)

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website Matzav.com explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

Not quite the pattern: Greenland selling development sites, not completed condos

Real Estate Weekly, reporting on trends in Chinese investment in New York City, on 11/18/15 quoted Jim Costello, a senior vice president at research firm Real Capital Analytics:
“They’re typically building high-end condos, build it and sell it. Capital return is in a few years. That’s something that is ingrained in the companies that have been coming here because that’s how they’ve grown in the last 35 years. It’s always been a development game for them. So they’re just repeating their business model here,” he said. When I read that last November, I didn't think it necessarily applied to Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, now 70% owned (outside of the Barclays Center and B2 modular apartment tower), by the Greenland Group, owned significantly by the Shanghai government.
A majority of the buildings will be rentals, some 100% market, some 100% affordable, and several--the last several built--are supposed to be 50% market/50% subsidized. (See tentative timetable below.)

Selling development …