Smoke signals

A civic group’s plan to ban grilling in Manhattan Beach Park is fueling more fires than it would put out.

The Manhattan Beach Neighborhood Association announced Monday night that it will send a resolution to the city calling for cookouts to be prohibited in the summertime destination — one of only seven public parks in Brooklyn that allow barbecuing — because they say the burning charcoal poses a health risk. The park, which stretches along Oriental Boulevard between Oriental Street and Ocean Avenue, has been a hamburger and hot dog haven for Southern Brooklynites since the 1960s.

“A ban is completely ridiculous!” said Gerritsen Bay grilling legend Jim Ryan. “The parks are there for our enjoyment and they shouldn’t take that freedom from us.”

But Association leaders insist that the high concentration of charcoal grills cause air pollution, which can increase a population’s risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and stroke, according to a study in the March 23 Journal of American Medical Association.

The report doesn’t specifically mention barbecuing as a source of pollution, but Association president Alan Ditchek, a physician, says that it emits disease-causing air agents that are just as harmful as cigarettes, which the city banned from public parks in February. The Association’s plan would not ban people from bringing portable gas grills, which it considers safe.

“Inhaling the fuel from all that charcoal burning in one place is dangerous,” Ditcheck said. “I’ve often found myself choking from the overwhelming fumes in the park.”

The Association’s reasoning is debatable. Other studies, such as a 2005 report by researchers at the University of California and Harvard, call charcoal a “clean-burning” cooking tool. And most studies that link air pollution to health problems say that most toxins are emitted by cars and factories — not neighborhood cookouts.

“I don’t recall anyone getting Black Lung from a charcoal grill, nor do I recall anybody suffering from second-hand grilling,” said Sheepshead Bay-apartment dweller Larry Roytman. “The people who want to take [barbecuing] away have too much time on their hands and need more hobbies.”

Science aside, BBQ enthusiasts say that charcoal gives their meats a terrific smoky flavor.

“A gas grill cannot match the flavor imparted on the food from a charcoal fire,” said “Grillin’ on the Bay” founder Robert Fernandez. “It gives another spice to your recipe.”

Manhattan Beach Park, a water-side oasis with playgrounds, baseball diamonds and other sports facilities, has grills in two sections: near the intersection of Oriental Boulevard and Hastings Street and by the promenade. The Parks Department designates grilling areas based on public demand.

This isn’t the first time that community leaders tried to put out the fires. They approached the former Brooklyn Parks Department commissioner, Julius Spiegel, with the idea a few years ago, but were shut down. But the new commissioner, Kevin Jefferey, will resume discussions about their concerns, according to Parks Department spokeswoman Meghan Lalor.

At least one Manhattan Beach leader is against the ban: Ditchek’s rival, Manhattan Beach Community Group president Ira Zalcman, who thinks the Neighborhood Association, which split from his civic in 2007, is misinterpreting the study.

“The park should be for the people of Brooklyn to enjoy,” Zalcman said. “Ditchek’s information is all wrong.”

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