The city has cut the cord on Marty’s chain gang.
Borough President Markowitz’s summer shows may go on next year, but inmates from Rikers Island will not be deployed to set up chairs and save the Beep thousands in labor costs.
“The Department of Correction provided work crews of inmates to help set up chairs for the Brooklyn concerts this summer; there are no plans to do so again,” said Sharman Stein, a spokeswoman for the Department of Correction, which had created the unique prison work detail for the borough president after his prior supplier of labor, the state prison system, eliminated the program to save taxpayer money.
Markowitz had gotten cheap labor from the state’s Lincoln Correctional facility overlooking Central Park for at least the previous 15 years.
A source within the city’s jail system said that its budget is nearly as strapped as the state, and that there was no infrastructure in place to handle requests for work crews at other locations around the city.
But the sight of inmates in orange-and-white-striped jumpsuits — the typical garb worn when they are outside the confines of a jail — will not soon be forgotten around Coney Island.
Last Friday morning, roughly 15 inmates were back on duty, cleaning up the aftermath of the B-52s concert while six guards kept a close watch.
The city had said that the inmates on the detail posed a minimal risk, as they were hand picked only minutes before getting on the bus to the concert site — so as to avoid any possible escape plans — and strip-searched before getting on the bus to Asser Levy Park or Wingate Field.
The Department of Correction also made sure the inmates weren’t from either Crown Heights or Coney Island, so that the prisoners wouldn’t be seeing old friends while gathering chairs.
Most locals had not taken issue with the prisoners, but rather had been disappointed that the jobs were going to incarcerated men being paid $1 an hour instead of people in need of work in the ailing economy.
“It’s nice the prisoners give something back to society,” said Ida Sanoff, an opponent of Markowitz’s larger plan to expand the bandshell into a $64-million amphitheater. “But on the other hand, there are a lot of people out of work that would like to get paid — even if just for a couple of days.”
And, as it turns out, there is a program established by Mayor Bloomberg through the Department of Youth and Community Development that would likely be able to find teenagers willing to set up the chairs for around the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
Rather than use such an outlet to find a workforce for his concerts, the Beep went to the city’s jail system.
Markowitz’s longstanding summer concerts have come under fire this year like never before. Just last week, the city admitted that the concerts at Asser Levy Park broke a law limiting the volume of the shows — calling into question the future of the music extravaganzas.
Still, the organizer of the concerts, Debra Garcia, pledged that the music would be bumping next year.
“Next summer, we will be celebrating the 33rd season of the Seaside Summer Concert Series,” Garcia said.
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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