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High fees may nix Astoria summer concert series

The Central Astoria Local Development Coalition Inc. learned last month from new Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski that for each concert it would have to hand over a $454 fee and a $1 per-person clean-up bond - which could add up to $10,000 to $15,000 upfront for its Independence Day celebration alone, coalition members said. "We certainly can't afford it," said Marie Torniali, executive director of the economic development organization. "We're doing this for the community. We don't make any money on it. If we have to pay all this money, how can we pay the performers?"The coalition, which budgets roughly $50,000 for the six-concert series, said it paid no fees under the administration of former Queens Parks Commissioner Richard Murphy, who retired in September after 10 years and took another job in Nassau.His successor, Lewandowksi, did not return a call requesting comment, and a Parks Department spokeswoman said it was unclear if the department had waived previous fees. "We're looking into it," spokeswoman Gina Masullo said. "Every time there is an event in a park there is a fee that's charged."Fees are different for each event and take into account the use of Parks' equipment and staff, she said. Masullo said the department can work out deals for lower fees with organizations that have a "good history" of staging events on city property.Coalition President Julian Wager said he was scheduled to meet with Parks Department officials on Thursday to discuss the fees. He said he might be forced to cancel some or all of the concerts if they do not work out a deal. "It would be unfortunate, but the people that lose will be our residents , our community residents who have come to depend on these concerts for the last 22 years," Wager said. "We're going to leave them with no place to go and no fireworks display if they continue to play hardball."Wager said thousands attend the performances on the 70-acre park's big lawn in the shadow of the Hell Gate Bridge along the East River. The free concerts start at 7:30 p.m. and are usually on Thursdays. This year's series kicks off on July 1 with an Independence Day celebration featuring Joe Battaglia & the N.Y. Big Band and Lenny Coco & The Chimes, followed by fireworks. Reach Matt Monks by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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