Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Bandshell's Back Together! by Lisa L. Colangelo - NY Daily News

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The Seuffert Bandshell in Forest Park, fresh from a $1.65 million face-lift, opens for business tomorrow night with its first free concert of the year.

Visitors won't just see new benches and a bright coat of blue-and-white paint at the popular, 90-year-old gathering spot.

They also will get a better view and improved acoustics, officials said.
Some of the concrete walkways and benches were replaced with green plantings. The new seating, fashioned from steel and recycled materials, was positioned for better sightlines to the stage area.

Local residents, who flock to the area for free summer evening concerts, said the bandshell is an important part of the community.

"I will forever associate the bandshell with growing up in Woodhaven," said Alexander Blenkinsopp, a member of Community Board 9 and the Woodhaven Residents' Block Association.

"When I was 3 years old, my parents put me up on stage to sing 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.' "

Even without the concerts, which range from doo-wop and country shows to performances from the Queens Symphony Orchestra, the bandshell provides a quiet, serene haven for visitors.

The area has been closed since December for the renovation, funded by Borough President Helen Marshall, City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley and the Bloomberg administration.

This is the second time in almost 10 years that the bandshell, named for musician and band leader George Seuffert, has undergone a major restoration.

But the musical oasis in leafy Forest Park wasn't always safe and family friendly. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, the bandshell was known as
"The Dome" and as a hotspot for partying teens.

"They really cleaned it up," said Maria Thomson, of the Greater Woodhaven Development Corp. The Parks Department "appointed an administrator and the police mobilized. They work hard to keep it secure and safe. It looks beautiful now."

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Shirley Alston Reeves kicks off the summer concert series at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow.

Later in the month, the Hip to Hip Theater Co. will stage productions of Shakespeare's "Macbeth" and "The Taming of the Shrew" at the bandshell.