Places that Matter

William F. Moore Park, or Spaghetti Park

Martha Cooper
Martha Cooper
Park featuring bocce courts
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William F. Moore Park is known as "Spaghetti Park" to its regulars--most of whom have Italian roots--and it is one of the best places in the city to play the game of bocce, which also originated in Italy.

The centerpiece of the park is a clay and sand bocce court where players from all over the city gather in the evening to play the game, rolling wooden balls over the gravel. Remarkably, this court is one of the few outdoor bocce courts in the city with lights. These lights are, according to the park's users, no small part of the park's success as a city-wide bocce hotspot and community gathering place. According to Tony Caminiti, the park's renaissance followed the renovation of the park in 1979, when the strings of lights were installed. Prior to the renovation, the park was home to vandals and drug addicts. Now, local business owners and park users take care of the park, as well as paying for its upkeep and its renovations. Where speakers were once illegally tied into the power grid, they now hang from specially designed poles. The barbecue pit has been replaced with steel grills. While some aesthetes protest that the "character" of the spot has been diminished, the cleanliness and durability of the permanent structures are clearly a source of pride to the bocce players and spectators.

Although bocce--and its group of devotees, largely male and past middle age--take center stage, the couples strolling or sitting on benches, enjoying Ices from the adjacent Lemon Ice King of Corona, and the older gentlemen playing chess and checkers do not seem to feel in any way peripheral to the park's raison d'etre.

While Spaghetti Park and the adjacent businesses, which include a number of Italian Restaurants and the Lemon Ice King, are distinctly Italian-American, the surrounding Corona community is now home to many Dominican immigrants. One sad reminder of the tensions between the newer and older generations of immigrants in Corona is the Manuel Mayi Jr. Corner at 108th Street and 36th Avenue--dedicated by Mayor Giuliani in 1996. This site commemorates the location where a Dominican youth, accused of spraying graffiti on a nearby restaurant, was beaten to death by other local youngsters in an incident widely viewed as racially motivated. Marches in protest against the lack of investigation or convictions for Mayi's death have been held from the corner to Spaghetti Park.