A very popular part of the park is the bocce court, which is next to the playground and bathroom. According to an Italian immigrant we interviewed, Tommy Stuljk, the game is played the same at it is played in Italy. People go there to play everyday, and there are often many people watching in addition to playing. Another man on the court, who was 86 years old, said that he had been playing the sport for the past 55 years and played at the park since the court was added. Tommy told us that everyone could play, men, women, old people, young people. We saw two women playing, and another man playing said, “eventually you guys are going to play too.” There are also people of different races that play as well, including Croatian, Jewish, Polish, and Spanish people. The people who play and watch are often smoking cigarettes, which many of the people who use to park don’t like since it is by the playground, which is used by many children.
The bocce court was put in 16 years ago in 1994 during a one-year $800,000 reconstruction of the park.1 In February, Community Board 7 voted unanimously in favor of renovating the park, which includes adding another bocce court. The estimated cost for renovations is $500,000, which many people believe is very pricey for a bocce. However, the parks department has stated that the renovations will include much more than a new bocce court. The money will also be used to refurbish the old court, repave the plaza around the court, to add extra amenities, such as picnic tables and benches, and to a add a ground fire hydrant, which would provide water for the bocce courts and plants around the area.2 In response to articles and blog posts written about the renovations, there are many negative comments posted about Italian Americans.
An anonymous comment says, “Ask them if their nephews are in construction.”
Another comment written by an anonymous person says, “I’ll bet that CM Dan Halloran approves it.Doesn’t he owe the Gambino family a favor for supporting his election bid? Uh…and who else but the “goombahs” will be playing there? Then there’s always Joey “d’or” Franco who might put together a “White House” team from his restaurant employees. But let’s look on the bright side BP users…with the “goombahs’ playing their night games in an added facility…the park will be doubly safe! What mugger would dare to mess with “La Famiglia’s” old soldieri? It’s really a win win situation. NYC saves money on police protection by privatizing security in this manner. So a one time expenditure of million bucks is a pittance compared to officers salaries, etc. over the years. Capeesh?”
A third anonymous person wrote, “This is “upscale” northeast Queens where shady unhinged pols like Halloran screw us every minute of the day in style…one million dollars worth in this case.Who else do you think got La Famiglia its bocce court money? How long will it take for you to pay back all the Gambino favors Dan? One million bucks…enough to gold plate all of the the park’s facilities!”3
All of the comments are really racist, making references to the mafia and the stereotype that all Italians work in construction. There was no tension in the park or really any interaction between the Italians and other people who were there, mainly Caucasians and Asians, but the comments online suggest that perhaps there are some bad feelings towards the Italians.