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W’burgers battle burgers: Neighborhood embroiled in Cooper Park grill fight

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A group of Williamsburg park-goers are searing mad about controversial grills installed in Cooper Park on Sunday — and they’re burning up over the fact the city may put nine more cooking stations in the green space.

More than 60 outdoor cooking opponents packed a Community Board 1 meeting on Monday, demanding the city remove eight new grills and six picnic tables from the northeast corner of the Maspeth Avenue park and halt a pilot program that could bring additional barbecue spots to the park in 2013.

Critics fear the grills will lead to pollution and violence.

“We’re scared — I’m sure there’s going to be barbecuing and possibly fighting,” said Williamsburg resident Belinda Yee, who claims the neighborhood is already bracing for peak grilling season. “On Memorial Day, they’re going to barbecue all day and all night, there’s going to be a lot more noise, smoke, and liquor, and we’re worried about the aftermath.”

Parks Department officials and the staff of Councilwoman Diana Reyna (D–Williamsbu­rg) — who sponsored the barbecue stations as the first phase of an extensive $2.6-million renovation plan — refused to budge on the outdoor cooking facility, but promised police would beef up patrols in the park this summer.

Pro-barbecuing Williamsburgers, including many residents of a nearby public housing development that lobbied for grills at community meetings last year, celebrated their arrival.

“This is something we were looking forward to for a long time, and the fact that it’s now permitted in Cooper Park, it’s fantastic,” she said. “It’s not just for Cooper Park Houses residents, it’s for our neighbors as well.”

But Williamsburg homeowners who live near the park say they don’t plan on cooking, and instead grilled the grills that they believe will char a leafy corner of the green space.

“[The city] is still not giving us clear answers about how it is going to clean up trash after the weekend,” said Williamsburg resident Sondra Braeutigam. “We’re already in an incredibly industrial area so air quality is already an issue and this is just going to add more stuff to the air.”

Over the next year, workers will renovate the park’s tennis, handball, and basketball courts, and construct a skate park, a dog run, and volleyball courts. If the Parks Department deems the grills successful — and popular among residents — the city plans to install another nine cooking spots.

Opponents say they want their voices heard in future park planning sessions, but claim the existing grills are a safety risk that must be addressed immediately.

“This is just the one truly green part of a very small park where people can have a picnic, take a walk, and ride scooters,” said Williamsburg neighbor Melissa Darling. “When you put a bunch of open flames and hot coals in that area, you make it a dangerous place for us.”

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Reader Feedback

Mike from Williamsburg says:
My neighbors astound me.
May 9, 2012, 12:48 pm
prillis says:
translation: keep the blacks confined to the projects.
May 9, 2012, 12:59 pm
prillis says:
translation: keep the blacks confined to the projects.
May 9, 2012, 12:59 pm
Gemma from Cooper Park Res says:
Lets me get this straight - these women are concerned about violence because of a BBQ in their park? Pleeeeeease. Give me a break.
May 9, 2012, 1:08 pm
parksforeveryone from 11211 says:
Putting aside some of the fears neighbors may have about potential bad behavior of the barbecue enthusiasts, lets just look at the environmental impact of the park's decision. It would be a failing grade given to NYC Parks, ecologically speaking.
The role of the parks department should not be as the arbiter of social justice for a few, but as the caretakers of our green spaces for all. Our Brooklyn Borough Commissioner's mandate to install the BBQ pits in Cooper Park was premature and irresponsible, both socially and environmentally.
Mr Jeffrey and Ms Thayer acquiescing to demands from a group whose claim to an entitlement to an otherwise illegal activity because of a perceived social inequity, or a debt due them for living in NYCHA housing, is wrong and miscalculated. 99% of apartment dwellers in NYC do not have access to backyards for barbecues either!
Cooper Houses guilting the NYC Parks Department and The Open Space Alliance into availing them special treatment is not social equality for anybody. NYCHA prohibits barbecues for a reason. They are polluting, and potentially dangerous. This plan just makes it easier for the Parks Department to have a false sense of being in control of things.
The icing on the cake is that the only environmentally "friendly" way to grill, which is by propane, is prohibited.
May 9, 2012, 1:19 pm
Mike from Williamsburg says:
PfE, parks are not there to be green. They are there to be used. The 99% of apartment dwellers that lack backyards can now grill in a park. I am confused why you would cite that in a paragraph that begins by talking about the "social justice for a few." Miscalculated indeed!

Are you throwing around words like "special treatment" because one needs a special permit available only to people who live in NYCHA housing or because you are trying to stir up resentment?
May 9, 2012, 1:32 pm
Malembi from BK says:
It's 96% you stupid ass hole
May 9, 2012, 3:24 pm
smoke 'em from 11211 says:
I heard that the parks are going to start burning the leaf piles in the fall like country people do, instead of raking and bagging them. Bring marshmallows.
May 9, 2012, 4:03 pm
Angie from 11211 says:
How much more will they put into the park before they call it hazardous????!!!! This is not so called make the park better for the community. It is making it better for the people that could not BBQ in their back yard only and it is insane to cater to these people in brooklyn. Go to Manahattan and ask them to put grills in their parks.
May 9, 2012, 11:13 pm
Old time brooklyns from Slope says:
Wow darkies using the park - cry me a whitie fine whine - stop the bs tears = parks are for people and bar b que is summer perfume - and it dumps stuff in the air - BFD - so does your ac- got over your sorry white a@@ bs -
May 9, 2012, 11:20 pm
Fuming from Williamsburg says:
Bottom line: there's a reason you can't grill in most parks - it's dangerous. Theres an unfenced playground right next to this area. In this case, it's also taking away green space and further polluting an already polluted area. Poor little Cooper Park is usually a mess on Mondays already. This will just add meat waste and charcoal.
The real story here is that the neighborhood was NOT informed, and OSA's and Parks claims are blatant lies. This whole thing stinks of corrupt BK politics, and there must be a reason that it was rammed through with no warning.
May 9, 2012, 11:28 pm
Natalie from 11222 says:
Julia Foster, the Cooper Park House's tenant association president, will get some mileage out of this for Diana Reyna. I think it reflects more on the impotency of Brooklyn Park administration's ability to manage park rules enforcement. People are going to BBQ anyway, and the park doesn't want to have to deal with trying to stop it.
Plus, they all look like saints for helping the less fortunate to crap up a park in the name of cultural sensitivity and tolerance.
May 10, 2012, 1:20 am
D from Greenpoint says:
Racebaiters are out. Where are the BBQs in Prospect Park or Central Park? They dont have them. I guess the residents that live around them are racists too? BBQers stink up the parks with their gasoline laced charcoal. They burn all day and into the night with people roping off sections of the park for their 'private' parties and leaving tons of garbage all over and to top it all off, they dump the used ashes all over then grass - a la McCarren park. BBQing has now become a personal right much like free health care,a high paying job, etc etc
May 10, 2012, 8:32 am
D from Greenpoint says:
OSA and Parks Dept does whatever they feel like and answer to nobody but THE MAYOR(good luck getting his ear). Same thing happened at MCCarren pool with the concerts. They couldnt care less what the community that lived there actually felt.
May 10, 2012, 8:34 am
Crawford from Greenpoint says:
Why are our idiot politicans allowing a natural space to be taken over by cooking, fumes and garbage? I thought parks are supposed to be recreational space, not party-time space.

These bbqs use gasoline-charcoal, so you're basically throwing toxins in the environment. Then you have the noise, loud music, fights, and, of course, the garbage.
May 10, 2012, 9:41 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
D, I am practicing being a person who is generous in spirit, so I am going to assume your question about grilling in Prospect Park was sincere and not more race-baiting. And so I have decided to help you. http://www.prospectpark.org/visit/interactive_map?cat=barbecue_areas,picnic_areas#map

The people of Williamsburg shouldn't have to travel to Prospect Park to grill.
May 10, 2012, 10:11 am
Greg from Greenpoint says:
Here's an idea... instead of offering racially-tinged concerns, offer a hot dog! Or a veggie burger if that's your thing! Go SAY HELLO to your neighbors. Maybe even introduce your kids, and encourage them to play together in that playground.

At a minimum: think about how your "concerns" resonate among those folks who maybe have a different vision for the park.
May 10, 2012, 10:12 am
ParkVis from Williamsburg says:
Two additional stunning developments:

1. you can bring your own BBQs into the designated area and fire up.

2. BBQ'ing is to be allowed until 1am every night! The bathrooms meanwhile are generally locked way before sundown.

How does this make sense to anybody?

There is no thought at all that went into this and the park will suffer tremendously as a result.
How is this in any way in line with the OSA mission?
This the exact opposite of what they proclaim to stand for.

There was a mad rush to get these BBQs installed this weekend in advance of state assembly district lines being redrawn this week. Very shady and surely no coincidence!
This uncomfortable topic for our local pols and OSA will not go away.
375 people have signed a petition against these BBQs and neigbors will stay engaged.
May 10, 2012, 10:23 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
ParkVis, you're trying to pass off paranoia as insight. There was a mad rush perhaps because it's spring. In the winter it's too cold to install them. In the summer it's too late.
May 10, 2012, 10:55 am
Denise from Williamsburg says:
Prospect Park is huge by comparison to Cooper anyway. Apples and oranges in terms of people being able to get away from the noxious smoke. All of this is shady.
I found the online petition and signed it even though the bbq pits have been installed already. At least there will be a record of us that oppose it when it all blows up in their faces. Parks advocating for pollution is wrong. http://www.signon.org/sign/save-cooper-park-from.fb8?r_by=4421069
May 10, 2012, 11:04 am
prillis says:
i love this. it has nothing to do with race. it has everything to do with violence. wait, no, the environment. oh, and also it's dangerous for little kids. bottom line, it's about the process - my procedural rights have been trampled. also think of the noise pollution.

keep em coming. kitchen sink is not yet full, bigots.
May 10, 2012, 11:51 am
Denise from Williamsburg says:
Only a racist would think this is all about race. Prillis, you probably like to trot out the old "I can't be a racist, I'm black" line all the time. Grow the hell up. You know that ALL of the reasons people don't want the BBQs are right on; but you will keep playing the race card because you have no other sound argument for having BBQ pits.
May 10, 2012, 12:06 pm
Mike from Williamsburg says:
The reason to have BBQ pits is because people want them and will use them. Parks are there to be used by people. That's why we're not talking about the Cooper Nature Preserve. And it's really embarrassing that some bigots are giving the community a black eye.
May 10, 2012, 12:31 pm
Mel from 11211 says:
Yes, it is embarrassing that Reyna, Foster, Leader et al played the race card to get what they want. Shame on them.
May 10, 2012, 1:10 pm
Mike from Williamsburg says:
Doing something that gets the local bigots all frothed up isn't "playing the race card." Being the local bigot is race card. It might seem unfair that changes occur that get you to show your racism, but it's not someone else's fault. And I'm not under any delusion that arguing with local bigots in the Brooklyn Paper comment section will change minds, but it should make you feel a little shame and at least anyone who reads will know that not all the people in this area are of your ilk.
May 10, 2012, 1:34 pm
grillman from Clinton Hill says:
There is a simple response to this. Let people bbq, it's their right and your argument against it sounds racist and silly...however, there is no room for being disgusting pigs who litter and have no respect for the neighborhood and park after they use it to grill...pick up, and bag your garbage...return the bbq area you used to look like it did before you arrived...and fine the HELL out of people who don't. Respect goes both ways, and leaving things a mess after getting your way shows the racists exactly what they want to see. Have some pride, pick up your trash.
May 10, 2012, 2:32 pm
prillis says:
forgive them, dear lord, for they know not what they do:
http://www.greenpointnews.com/news/4478/reyna-and-volunteers-show-some-love-to-cooper-park
May 10, 2012, 3:31 pm
Brooklyn DeBased from Bay Ridge says:
The parks are for the enjoyment of ALL and NOT for just the privileged self important FEW. They are not nature preserves nor should they be. It seems that the interlopers were never taught to share. It is also clear that they believe the "pre-existing population" should just get the hell out of their nabes (what a stupid word, stolen from the movie theatre chains of the 30s and 40s). The local real estate brokers probably feel the same way as their money to waste clients. They all love it when the city and it's policymakers give them their unneeded and mostly unused bike lanes , allows them to inconvenience millions with their bike tours and subject millions more to the insanity of their bike share bull. Not to mention partying on the banks of the Gowanus and kayaking on Newtown Creek. No self respecting New Yorker or Brooklynite would be caught dead doing these things. But allow the long timers and the natives to enjoy the outdoors and parks that they paid for with their tax dollars ? " SAVE BILLYBURG FROM THE TOWNSFOLK WITH THEIR PITCHFORKS AND TORCHES!!!!!"
May 10, 2012, 4:24 pm
Peter M. says:
Wow – the quotes of the hipster/yupsters opposing it!

“…there’s going to be a lot more noise, smoke, and liquor, and we’re worried about the aftermath.” — the aftermath, like it’s Hurricane Katrina or something, rather than a few grills.

“We’re already in an incredibly industrial area so air quality is already an issue and this is just going to add more stuff to the air.” — nonsensical enviro-hysteria.

“…very small park where people can have a picnic, take a walk, and ride scooters, When you put a bunch of open flames and hot coals in that area, you make it a dangerous place for us.” — “a dangerous place for us”

— this, I can’t get. What, they’ll fall into the grills by accident while jogging?

The racism is far from thinly veiled!
May 10, 2012, 6:17 pm
Jonny from projects says:
I think they are afraid that we are gonna start a rape bonfire or something.
May 10, 2012, 6:27 pm
JT3 from Williamsbug says:
Hmm, Peter M. you make some dramatic assumptions about anyone who apposes bbq'ing in city parks.
As long as it's been illegal it's been a bad idea, and now that it's legal its still a bad idea. If your kid's playground was full of garbage from grills, if your dog stepped in abandoned hot coals and was burned, you may be able to see the issues for what they are. The Parks Department could not manage bbq'ing in this park on a smaller illegal scale. I think it's fair to be concerned about their ability to do so going forward.

If you're someone who is going to enjoy the grills and clean up after yourself, your responsibly bagged garbage is still going to sit a few days until Parks gets itself over to pick it up. Your smoke, in the right wind, is still going to billow onto a playground that is far too close and choke the joggers who run the park's perimeter.
May 10, 2012, 6:42 pm
Pat I. from 70's Brooklyn says:
Ok let me lay this out so I can process the pretzel logic of these trustfund d**chebags and yupsters:

BBQ-ing is dangerous. It's unruly, will cause a mess and disrupt life as we know it. The earth will lose spin balance
and 60 Minutes will chase the Mast Brothers down the street because they use Hershey's in their 8 dollar chocolate bars.

BUT:

We live with people who cannot and will not follow traffic rules when bike riding.

Raise LIVESTOCK in an urban area.

Disrupt every hood in the five boros with protests, OWS nonsense and loud bars (the kind that let clueless Calebs bring their kids into only to request everyone keep from cursing ..you know...there are kids around).

Hold condiment fights, pillow fights, Critical mass (which hinders the ability of cops, FDNY and EMTS from doing their job), loud bars (with bad music, drunken hipsters and trash), mermaid parades..I could go on.

You transplants - the touchy feely liberal types, come in raise rents to "wheel of fortune" levels in long established
neighborhoods with their own culture and traditions.

But rather than assimilate and adapt you want everyone to change to meet your whims. No you can't sell ice cream in the park. Yes I have my condo, but how dare you build another apartment building dwn the street from me? Why does the church across the street have to ring it's bells right when my little Noah is taking his nap?

F**CK all of you. Racists.
May 10, 2012, 7:29 pm
Pat I. from 70's Brooklyn says:
JT3-

back up these claims with figures. The odds of this happening is about as much as a hipster choking on his own mustache.

wait - scratch that.

If you want green, move to the goddamn suburbs.

There are kids who burn themselves on hot stoves. Should we ban cooking too? shouldn't parenting have a play in all this? But heaven forbid Meghan is disrupted from looking up Kombucha verbena smoothie recipes on her i-Pad while little Colton gets nailed in the head by a swing.

Oh yes.Let's ban swings while we're at it. Also - send the swing to sensitivity training and froce it to watch "Bully" for 24 hours straight.
May 10, 2012, 7:36 pm
JT3 from Williamsburg says:
Pat- read my comment please. I said NOTHING about kids burning themselves. I said the playground is full of garbage. I understand you are so angry but that anger is causing you to miss real issues we have all suffered in our park.
Calling this a racist issue is just ridiculous to me. Easy, but ridiculous.
May 10, 2012, 7:43 pm
Josh from Bedbug Avenue says:
Why are you people such a bunch of haters. I came from Iowa to Brooklyn to become an artist. I want to practice my art and not have to look at a bunch of brown and black people all day. I also don't want to listen to their sh**ty rap music while I practice my 1970s styleophone. It's not right. I pay $3800 to share a mattress with 4 other creative types like me and I think it's totes unfair that I must listen to these subhumanoids at 4am when I'm coming home from the poetry readings at the bar.
If BBQs in the park are such a nuisance, I don't want them. therefore they shouldn't be here. I'm bringing you aborigines culture. You should listen to what I say.
May 10, 2012, 7:55 pm
PAT I. from That 70's Brooklyn says:
JT3 - it is racist. Because if hipsters and yupsters decided to hold artisanal BBQ contests every weekend well then - that would be OK! We're talking sheep here. This is a class of society that claims to be the most open minded and tolerant of all Americans. But we all know they are the worst kind of racists.

Someone here also mentioned pollution. You have restaurants,more wood fired pizzerias and BBQ joints than you can shake a fist at - and these places run 24/7 and burn through cords of wood per week. But hey this is OK. They enhance and validate the hipster persona.
But a dozen people BBQing - in the summer - on nice days is pollution? Really?

We could solve this easily by simply putting a Bike lane through every BBQ. That would solve the problem.

Someone also wrote that people would crash their bikes into them. I don't doubt this. If the wizards who ride around playing flutes and slide whistles is any indication, then maybe they have a point.

But then - considering that most cyclists avoid potholes and lamp posts I can't see how a BBQ can be an obstruction unless your driving a penny farthing while under the influence of a six pack of locally crafted ale.
May 10, 2012, 8:03 pm
Pat I. from hat 70's Brooklyn says:
Josh -

Heyyy... are you the guy on Bedford who plays Kazoo
in The "look at me I'm Quirky" jug band? You rock!

I also like your sculptures! Who would have thought you could make really big legos out of little ones?

We need to hang. You Bring the Pravda and your collection of vintage typewriters and I'll bring the mustache wax! we'll party like it's 1899!
May 10, 2012, 8:20 pm
Peter M. says:
JT3 from Williamsbug --

you say, "As long as it's been illegal it's been a bad idea, and now that it's legal its still a bad idea." --

Now you're not the only one to make this kind of claim in the thread, but I think you're a little off here --

Up in the Bronx, as long as I have known it, there is a sizeable area of Van Cortlandt Park where grilling/BBQ is allowed.

I happen to know that at Roberto Clemente State Park - also in the Bronx -- grilling is allowed.

So I don't think it's quite right to say that this kind of thing is "illegal" -- as though this is a completely unprecedented move by the Parks Department.

AND ALSO -- I'm not really making assumptions -- Googling shows that the people quoted as opposed in the article above all fit snugly into the hipster/yupster demographic.
May 10, 2012, 9:04 pm
pet rock lover from Dix Hills says:
In Cooper Park it was previously illegal, but ignored until now. Same as McCarren. In Prospect Park it is permitted, as it is in a good number of other city parks. They use the same type of fireboxes in those. Central Park, no.
The parks map has all the barbecue areas on it. http://www.nycgovparks.org/facilities/barbecue
May 10, 2012, 9:55 pm
jay from pslope says:
OK
1)so if people are going to be BBQing then that is obviously going to cost restaurant owners money and by council member Vincent Gentile's logic we can't have that, especially since the BBQers are from the projects and don't pay as much in taxes, right?
2) Garbage will be a problem, Prospect Park after a weekend is just nasty with over flowing trash left everywhere from BBQ-ers.
People are pigs and don't clean up after themselves, and those who try to, sometimes can't find a trashcan that is not already overflowing.
The Police are not on top of the littering issue and its gross, not to mention that it draws and feeds rats.
So what is the plan to deal with that for this park? Gonna have a dumpster? Put a few police in there to monitor it, and actually write tickets rather than leaning up against a post and sending text messages all day? And who is paying for it?
Maybe that issue could be solved by imposing a BBQ fee on users, or maybe people could call in and reserve a grill for a specific time period that way to maximize the amount of people who could use them, and if you don't clean up, the next person reports you and you get banned for 90 days?
3) Smoking is now not legal in parks, but making smoke from BBQ is? Seems a little odd since BBQ smoke is also a hazard, just sayin....
May 11, 2012, 1:35 pm
resident from williamsburg says:
As someone who grew up by this very park, I can say that this is a terrible idea. BBQ grills are not for residents but for ANYONE coming into this neighborhood. Sadly, over the past year, the area has seen an increase in homeless, sex offenders, public drinking, and drug use, around the park. You telling me that allowing people to BBQ (people will be drinking) is not going to make this worse? It's going to put an additional strain on the police to monitor these grills and the crowds they attract at a time that we need them on the streets. Who wants grilling in a park til 1 AM??? Best case scenarios involve families -- worst case are far worse. See what happens off bedford with the parks dept concerts off the water -- drunk kids and violence that is difficult to curtail. Facts are people want to make this issue about race but it's about safety. Plain and simple. Stop trying to explain away legit concerns from neighbors with cries of "racism" when the facts are there is NO precedence for this. We know what happens in this park on a DAILY basis and this is a BAD idea. Politicians should be more concerned with public safety than wasting our tax payer money on ideas that have not been fully thought out or planned just for the sake of doing it.
May 15, 2012, 7:07 pm
Yupster from Kent Ave says:
What's the big deal about letting people BBQ in the park? Who cares and how on earth could it ever possibly lead to crime? I'm sorry but anyone who feels threatened by something as arbitrary as a park BBQ is an absolute fool. The only thing I would say is that they should keep an eye on how responsible people are about cleaning up after themselves. As long as they keep the park clean then there is no reason not to allow the BBQers.

Malembi - I don't know who you are but you suck. All you do is hate on others that post on these boards. You're clearly a miserable useless person. Just go away.
May 18, 2012, 9:09 am
Tom from Williamsburg says:
Agree with the sarcastic remark from prillis. Parks are for the people. The only people complaining are implants, not the citizens of our city.
April 16, 2015, 3:48 pm

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