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Cooper Park Barbecue Grills Bring Neighbors to a Boil

Neighbors plan to protest the grills that are being installed Sunday on marked spots in Cooper Park.
Neighbors plan to protest the grills that are being installed Sunday on marked spots in Cooper Park.
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DNAinfo/Meredith Hoffman

WILLIAMSBURG—Holes have been dug to install Cooper Park's ten barbecues—but before the grills have time toget hot, they have already brought neighbors to a boil.

"It's the only place for us to breathe in fresh air from the trees and now they're installing 10 barbecue pits," lamented neighbor Vanessa Scorsone, 34, who has helped organized a group to protest Sunday in the 6.4-acre green space at Maspeth and Morgan avenues.

More than 300 neighbors have signed a petition against the grills and cited reasons such as increased trash and vermin, safety hazards for children and the loss of green space.

"Now my children will be dodging rotten chicken bones along with the garbage that is already there," wrote one petition signer, Richard Allen. "KEEP BBQ PITS OUT OF THE PARK. FOR THE CHILDREN!!!"

"Every other green space here has been ruined," wrote another petitioner, Paul Rowley. "Why it is that every square inch of the park has to have some kind of function? Can't we just have a small amount of green space left?"

But officials have claimed that 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 recently. Reynoso is chief of staff for Councilwoman Diana Reyna, who plans to spend nearly $3 million on other park improvements.

"They don't have backyards," said Reynoso. "They really want a place for their families."

Reynoso and a Parks Department spokeswoman emphasized that they have had several meetings since last year to discuss the plan with residents.

"We've done our best to address issues of maintenance and enforcement … at the end of the day the grills are going in."

The installation of the grills kicks off Sunday. Neighbors have not yet set their time for a protest that day.