Frustrated McCarren Neighbors Plan to Form Own Park Group

By Meredith Hoffman on October 15, 2012 8:06am | Updated on October 17, 2012 9:09am

WILLIAMSBURG — Christine Murray has taken daily dog walks, bought fresh produce, perfected her tennis swing and cooled off swimming in McCarren Park. She even met her current boss there.

"I’ve been going there 20 years, I’ve found jobs, loves, friends," she said of the neighborhood hub five blocks from her home. "There’s a lot of interest in the community to make McCarren better."

So when the non-profit Open Space Alliance for North Brooklyn abruptly canceled its McCarren ice rink plans for this winter, Murray knew it was time to act — why not start her own non-profit, specifically for McCarren?

"OSA’s missing the deadline for the skating rink is disappointing, and they’re not the organization I’d like them to be," Murray said of the group assisting Williamsburg and Greenpoint green spaces. "The only way for us to change this is to have money on the table."

Now, Murray and other longtime residents are forming a group to focus on McCarren maintenance and innovation projects, from trash and port-a-potties to a new picnic area by the pool.

"It's in the very baby baby stages but I think there's a lot of potential there," said Murray, who has already received an outpouring of support from members of the Facebook group Friends of McCarren Park. "I've been to OSA meetings and I'm the former co-chair of the OSA community committee...Their mission may be too big to really focus on McCarren."

Murray said she envisioned the group as a chance to fundraise for McCarren and then potentially to give that money to the Open Space Alliance with specific guidelines for its use.

"The community wants to give," she noted, "and OSA has yet to figure out how that should happen."

Stephen Hindy, chairman of OSA's board and the founder of Brooklyn Brewery, said he welcomes any group that wants to help McCarren.

"We welcome any group that's looking to raise money to improve parks in North Brooklyn," he said.

For Kevin Daily, founder of the Brooklyn Kickball League, which plays in McCarren, the issues in the park plagued his group all season.

"Our field looks like a dump, it's poorly maintained and we were without lights for six weeks," he lamented. "They've had no changes in vending on the field, there's only one hot dog lady and she can't handle the demand."

Daily claimed that he had seen no positive changes from OSA working for McCarren, and that the group's concerts by the Williamsburg waterfront had failed to fund any other significant improvements for parks.

"How much money have they gotten from concerts and what are they doing with it? I haven't seen any tangible results," he said.

Hindy noted that OSA board members are currently deciding how to spend the approximately $250,000 profit from this summer's concerts.

"The rink would have been putting all our money into the rink and having no money left for anything else," he said.

So just as Hindy and other members of OSA (which fired its executive director Stephanie Thayer this fall and has since functioned with no official leader) debate how to use the funds, members of the new McCarren group are brainstorming their own ideas.

"There's a large area fenced off with chain link next to the skate park and pool that didn't get finished with the pool renovation," noted neighbor Meredith Chesney. "I'd like to see that turned into a picnic area."

And resident Emma Jacquemart, who also plans to join the group, said a community-based group for McCarren only made sense.

"This is one way to be involved, take action and make changes," she said of the plan. "I want to do more and I think I deserve more for my backyard. Why not form a group?"

The Parks Department did not immediately respond to calls and emails requesting comment.

Murray said that anyone can become involved by reaching out to the Facebook group Friends of McCarren Park.

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