W’burg’s outdoor cooking critics decry Memorial Day grilling mess

W’burg’s outdoor cooking critics decry Memorial Day grilling mess
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

They can’t take the heat — and they wish everyone else would go back to their kitchens.

Opponents of newly installed grills in Cooper Park claim their greatest fears were realized over Memorial Day weekend when crowds of outdoor cooking fanatics flocked to the Williamsburg green space, seared up a storm inside and outside the designated barbecue area, and left trash all over the place.

“There was lots of illegal barbecuing, people used a propane gas tank, and ashes piled up around the trees,” said grill critic Nancy Darling. “My daughter was really upset. It was not a good situation.”

Scores of grillmasters set up cookouts for the holiday in the park at the corner of Maspeth and Morgan avenues, where the city installed eight new grills and six picnic tables last month as part of a $2.6-million renovation.

The grills are popular with barbecue backers, who lobbied for cookouts at community meetings — but other neighbors have rallied against them, arguing they will leave the park riddled with trash.

And on Tuesday morning, critics say their prophesy was fulfilled.

Paper plates, plastic cups, bags of charcoal, and corn cobs lay scattered across the northeast section of the park, below a park sign warning against littering.

Tree killers: A grill protester put up a sign, “Charcoal kills trees,” on a tree in Cooper Park.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Supporters of the grills claim the outdoor cookouts help the neighborhood come together and said that barbecue lovers carted out the vast majority of the trash.

“There were a lot of people here but there’s not much garbage left, they picked it up,” said Williamsburg resident Pascual Reynoso.

The Parks Department called neighborhood politicians and said it has tidied up the green space.

“Parks all over the city were filled last weekend with New Yorkers looking to celebrate Memorial Day and welcome the summer season,” an agency spokesperson said. “Parks staff regularly maintains our lawns and beaches, but as always, we encourage everyone to properly dispose of trash.”

But critics say more should be done to reign in barbecuing and large crowds — especially since fire pit rules allow visitors to bring as many portable grills as they like, so long as they cook in groups of 30 or less.

“There were many fires outside of the designated area near the playground and even fires set up without a hibachi or barbecue grill at all,” said Williamsburg resident Jamaica Taber.

Reach reporter Aaron Short at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-2547.

Trash heap: Residents were not happy about the garbage left in Cooper Park picnic area on Tuesday morning.
Community Newspaper Group / Aaron Short