Simone Weichselbuam, DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
The handball courts behind Junior High School 51 in Washington Park near Fourth Ave. and Third St. draw about 30 gang members, sources and residents said.
The Washington Park Kings claim they are merely using the park as a place to meet rather than to battle rival groups like the Crips and the Trinitarios.
"We just chill and have fun and play ball," said an 18-year-old King one night last week. "We don't do nothing. My tribe is chill."
Cops started cruising around Washington Park and along Fourth and Fifth Aves. this summer, eying teens and young men sporting King colors - a yellow bandanna, a black-and-yellow wrist band or beads hanging from the neck.
"We can't stop them for playing handball, but we see them doing anything more, we lock them up," one police source said.
"They definitely have felt more comfortable hanging out in the park during hot weather months, and we did what we could to make them uncomfortable by arresting them for minor offenses and by stopping and questioning at every opportunity."
Late last month, a few blocks from the park, cops arrested a 17-year-old for carrying an air pistol that looked like a real handgun, commonly used by thugs to commit robberies. The teen was carrying the Latin King's bylaws and wearing gang colors.
The News has found six other Brooklyn parks and playgrounds in the past month where gangs have made themselves at home while residents stay away.
Parents had complained that the Park Slope Playground on Lincoln Place was filled with young men calling themselves TNG - Top Notch Gentleman - smoking marijuana and drinking beer in front of little kids.
Cops said the TNG members were a group of harmless guys from the neighborhood but, the Kings, while quiet, still pose a bigger threat.
Dogwalkers and parents at Washington Park said they were unaware of any gang activity there.