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Parks Dept. Hopes New Ft. Greene Park Signs Clear Up Closing Time Disparity

By Janet Upadhye | August 2, 2012 6:35am | Updated on August 2, 2012 10:43am

FORT GREENE — The city's Parks Department replaced confusing and controversial signs in Fort Greene Park after it was revealed that a part of the park closest to public housing closed hours earlier than amenities on the brownstone side.

The old signs, which read “This Area Closes at 9 p.m.," covered a large swath on the Myrtle Avenue side of the park, chasing public housing residents from a BBQ area replete with benches, an adult fitness center and basketball courts.

The new signs installed Monday, weeks after DNAinfo.com New York exposed the closing-time discrepancy, say “The BBQ Area Closes at 9 p.m."

"We changed the signs to make them more clear," said Parks spokeswoman Tara Kiernan. "And to further clarify, the basketball courts are not included in the BBQ area."

The former signs prompted outrage from residents of the nearby Walt Whitman and Ingersoll housing projects, who said cops and parks workers chased them from the prohibited area at 9 p.m. while people from the leafy DeKalb Avenue side of the park were free to frolic until 1 a.m.

But some are not satisfied with the new signs.

“They are just as vague as the first ones,” said Joe Gonzales, who first brought the matter to the attention of the community board. “Does that mean there is no barbecuing in the area after 9 p.m. or that no people are allowed in the area, period?"

Kiernan made it clear that, fire or no fire, there's no nighttime chillin' near the grills.

"No one is allowed to be in the BBQ area after 9 p.m., but the park remains open until 1 a.m.," she wrote in an email.

Gonzales said the issue of unfair treatment remains — people are allowed in the DeKalb Avenue side of the park until it closes at 1 a.m. while people on the poorer side of the park are banned from the benches hours earlier.

"I understand why the Parks Dept. would want people to stop barbecuing at 9 p.m. for fire safety reason," Gonzales said. "But I do not understand why people cannot simply hang out in the area after 9 p.m."

Kiernan that the BBQ area closes earlier than the rest of the park so that park workers can get started on cleaning that section. She added that has been standard practice for years.

But sources told DNAinfo.com that cleaning ends at 5 p.m. when the park house, which holds all the cleaning equipment and supplies, is locked for the night.

Kiernan said the night cleaning consisted of litter removal.