Park Barbecue Spat Heats Up

By Meredith Hoffman | April 20, 2012 3:43pm 

WILLIAMSBURG — Despite heated neighbors' protests Cooper Park will bring in the spring with barbecues — that's an order, the Parks Department declared yesterday.

Brooklyn Borough Parks Commissioner Kevin Jeffrey mandated yesterday that ten metal grills  be installed in the next few weeks, despite recent complaints that the cookers will worsen trash, air quality and noise, and will detract from green space.

"This is supposed to be a community-led process, and they didn't listen to us," said Steven Garrelts, a member of the Cooper Park Neighborhood Association. He said his group requested the number of grills be decreased.

"It's going to be ghetto blaster central, where people park their cars and blast music," said Sondra Brauetigam, who lives with her two children next to the park. "The grills are going to be in one of the few areas where you can lay a blanket and have shade."

But officials claimed dozens of its local residents — especially tenants at Cooper Houses public housing — have pushed for the plan since last year, which is part of a larger renovation of Cooper Park.

The grills and a new volleyball court—which will be paid for by the Open Space Alliance—are the first phase of the larger renovation.

"I think Cooper Park Houses residents, more than anyone else, wants them," said Antonio Reynoso, Councilwoman Diana Reyna's chief of staff, who plans to spend nearly $3 million on other park improvements. "They don't have backyards...they really want a place for their families."

Reynoso said two grills were relocated from their planned spot by Maspeth Avenue and that Parks would employ extra workers on weekends to maintain the area. Police from the 90th Precinct would also canvas the area and respond to local complaints, he said.

"We think the only satisfactory answer they want is to remove the grills," said Reynoso of concerned neighbors. "We did our best to address issues of maintenance and enforcement . . . and at the end of the day the grills are going in."

And a Parks spokeswoman said the grills were intended to serve the community.

“Barbecuing areas citywide, including the proposed area in Cooper Park, are designated based on expressed public demand," the spokeswoman said. "Barbecuing and picnicking have had a long tradition of bringing neighbors together in parks.  We encourage everyone to grill only in designated areas, and to follow all park rules.”