Just over half an acre and situated adjacent to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, Macri Square Park has attracted pet owners, bocce players, and artists for more than half a century.
Now the small but well-worn park, bounded by Union and Metropolitan and Meeker avenues, is attracting attention from Williamsburg residents tired of its dinginess and looking to refurbish it.
Matthew Fury is one Williamsburg resident who wants the park to change. A 12-year resident of North Brooklyn, he recently moved back to Williamsburg, returning with a dachshund, and discovered that the junkies who had loitered at the park a decade ago were replaced by eager dog owners.
Fury has tried rallying several pet owners in the area to lobby local elected officials to clean up the park and spoke at a recent Community Board 1 meeting to urge his neighbors to get involved.
“Nobody knew who was responsible for taking care of the place,” said Fury.“I tried organizing the people, but we decided collectively that we didn’t want a dog run, but we wanted to make sure that the park stayed nice. We don’t want to exclude people from using the park.”
Neither does Crest Hardware’s Joe Franquinha.This past June, Franquinha curated and installed an elaborate art show, “Crest Fest,” with a concert in Macri Park designed to raise private funds for its restoration.Five months later, Franquinha met with North Brooklyn Parks administrator Stephanie Thayer to address some of his and his friends’ concerns with the park. Those includerefurbishing the bocce court and and adding another gate on the Metropolitan side, “just so there’s better access to the park,” said Franquinha. “Now, only the Union Avenue side is accessible daily. We want an entrance on the Metropolitan side.”
Created in 1946 from land seized by the city in the aftermath of the construction of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, the park has transformed along with the community surrounding it.After several decades of neglect, in 1990 Assemblymember Joseph Lentol (D-Williamsburg) secured funding for a bocce court on the Union Avenue side of the park, though fewer people use the court for bocce these days.
“People have really taken it over as a dog park,” said Cara Jordan, a Williamsburg resident and a CUNY graduate student who has conducted research on the history of the park. “I’ve never seen people play bocce there. The demographic that might play bocce is moving out of the neighborhood and going to Long Island and other places where rent is cheaper.
Currently, the Parks Department allows dogs to be off leash before 9 a.m. and after 9 .m., though there is not a fenced-in dog run similar to the one at McCarren Park.
“We are always in favor of appropriate facilities for dogs, if that’s what the community supports,” said Amy Cleary, a spokesperson for Lentol. “It’s not up to us to decide what’s in the park.It’s great they want the improvement, as long as the local community is part of that process.” Thayer, who also runs the Open Space Alliance, which has helped raise private money to refurbish parks throughout Williamsburg and Greenpoint, agreed with Cleary and encouraged residents interested in Macri to come to the next OSA meeting.
“We love having volunteers join to raise much needed funds and take an active role in improving our parks.Of course, we would also look for local feedback through the community board about any changes,” said Thayer.