Coney Island might be gaining a cool new amphitheater, but at what cost? The New York Post recently reported on residents' outrage as construction workers bulldozed the beloved Boardwalk Community Garden to make way for Marty Markowitz's revamped Childs restaurant amphitheater project. The work was allegedly done under the cover of night after developer iStar Financial ordered the razing of the garden, which dates all the way back to the 1980s.
Community activists told the NY Post that construction workers waited until 5 a.m. on the morning of December 28th to begin the abrupt demolition. According to witnesses, work crews first gathered and moved the 20 chickens living in the garden to pet carriers outside the plot, however it seems that dozens of cats, rabbits, and pigeons fled before the machines moved in. Soon after, backhoes and bulldozers rolled in, tearing apart plots that have grown everything from hundreds of pounds of tomatoes, cabbage, zucchinis, and other vegetables.
The community garden grounds were part of a long disputed project to renovate the empty Childs Restaurant and its adjacent land. On the now barren plot, iStar Finanical wants to build a ritzy, new 5,000-seat amphitheater and year-round dining establishment. Outgoing Borough President Marty Markowitz trumpeted the $53 million project and the City Council just approved plans for the conversion a week prior to the garden’s destruction. From here, the City plans to buy the Childs building from iStar Financial and have the developer renovate the space. Meanwhile, the Boardwalk Garden and two parcels along West 23rd Street will be converted into seating and a sprawling, landscaped lawn.
The Boardwalk Community Garden officially got its start in 1997, although some residents said they’ve run the garden since the 1980s. Prior to the demolition, the city kicked the growers out in 2004 to convert the land into a parking lot for MCU Ballpark, but the garden was never paved and the farmers returned. Hurricane Sandy also brought flood waters and sand from the beach, but again the gardeners returned to dig their way out and replanted last spring. We’re sad to see this important community institution go and can only hope the amphitheater project is going to be worth it.