By Sabina Mollot
After months of being deluged with requests for a dog run from countless dog owners in Stuyvesant Town — as well as equally passionate NIMBY pleas from other residents — management has debuted an experimental dog run at Playground 1.
The trial dog run program, dubbed “Dog Days,” was introduced at an event for dogs and their owners at the aforementioned playground near First Avenue on Saturday.
The trial dog run will be open for three more Saturdays, 90 minutes each time, from 10 to 11:30 a.m.
While at Saturday’s event, Rick Hayduk, the general manager of Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village, explained that due to the controversial nature of the oft-spoken about dog run, a pilot program seemed necessary.
“Let me just say I lobbied all the stakeholders and no one had any objection to a trial,” he said. “A lot of the dog run conversation is hypothetical. It’s going to be loud, it’s going to be this.”
But Blackstone’s new management company, StuyTown Property Services, has come up with a plan that will hopefully keep the dog run from becoming a nuisance.
Part of the trial included music being played in the background during the hours the dogs were allowed to frolic, leash-free, through the playground.
“It serves as the white noise,” Hayduk explained. He also said that Playground 1 was chosen due to the lack of amenities, unlike some other playgrounds that are home to basketball or soccer games. Hayduk added that following the period in which dogs are allowed to run around, “our scrubbers will come in and it’ll be cleaner than when it started.”
As Hayduk greeted pooches and their owners and asked them to register for the property’s new blue ID tags for dogs, many of residents in attendance naturally told T&V they were thrilled a dog run was being considered.
Abbe Dillon, there with her Lassa-apso pooch, Gus, said, “I think it would be so wonderful to have a dog run here. That would really make it pet-friendly. Right now it’s pet tolerant.”
Dillon added that she’d make it a point to come on the upcoming Saturdays the dog run is available “just to encourage them.”
Another fan of the plan was longtime resident Cheryl Krist, who has long lobbied for better treatment of owners of service dogs like herself who frequently get denied access to local stores.
Krist, who walks with the aid of a cane, said she recently won a court case against a business on First Avenue who hadn’t let her in with her Brittany, Baci, although she said some businesses still refuse to allow them both entry.
“I think it’s fantastic,” said Krist, on the possible dog run.
Krist’s husband Joseph also liked the idea, believing it will cut down on the altercations between dog owners and other tenants and also allow for better enforcement of the ban on non-resident dogs. “It helps security do their job,” he said. “It reduces the potential for problems with people that shouldn’t be here. It’s an attractive place to bring your dog, but not everybody knows the rules.”
Dee Harris, who was there with her pint-sized pooch, Nia, said she understand the hesitance of some of her neighbors about the idea due to some owners who don’t clean up after their pets.
“Some dog owners are not helpful,” she said. “It’s a common complaint, and if I’m not a dog lover, I shouldn’t have to be stepping in poop. So I understand both sides.” But she added, “I think it’s a good idea.”
Another resident, meanwhile, said a dog run was necessary as was a more pet-friendly atmosphere in general. The woman, there with her husband and their rescue puppy, said the anti-dog sentiment from some of her neighbors, both in the complex and online on neighborhood social media groups, has reached a level where owners are feeling harassed.
“It’s basically cyber-bullying,” added the resident, who didn’t want to give her name. “They’re assuming we’re all irresponsible. I’ve felt very alienated since getting our puppy. We have a great dog community, but it’s the rest of the community. It’s become very divided: the people who like dogs and the people who don’t. For many of us, the dogs are like our children.”
As for the local dog runs, like Stuyvesant Square and Tompkins Square, the woman added, “They’re close but not super close. By the time we get there, she’s tired. We’ve been very active in trying to have more spaces for dogs to run.”
A friend of hers and another dog owner, John Michael Zervoulei, agreed, saying dog owners are being seen as intrusive yuppie scum, destroying the community’s middle class identity one pile of poop at a time.
“It’s more symbolic,” he said. “The dogs are symbolized as the changing over to market value. It’s part of the bigger picture of ‘let’s make it a playground for the wealthy.”
“But,” Zervoulei, who said he recently fought for succession of his apartment added, “that’s not the case.”
Zervoulei also suggested that instead of one dog run, another possibility could be a few smaller spots where dogs are allowed to congregate. “It might be nice to open up some of these grassy areas,” he said. “It would be three or five dogs instead of 50 dogs driving people nuts.”
Meanwhile, not every dog owner liked the idea of an onsite run at all.
“This park is notorious for nobody picking up,” said one woman, as she strolled into the playground. “I feel like this is the big poop playground.”
The resident, who didn’t want her name used, added, “My son likes to play Frisbee here. I’d rather it be used for kids. Softball (season) is starting and baseball. And now they’re going to close it for another two hours to sanitize this. I just walk around the Oval (with my dog), and there’s Tompkins Square.”
At Saturday’s event, along with allowing their dogs to go unleashed, guests got to interact and get a few freebies from vendors from pet-related businesses.
Pooches got their photos taken by Boprey Photography, Happy Dogs daycare center offered free ear cleaning and Petland Discounts provided Frisbees. Stuy Town management also gave away dog poop bag holders and water bowls decorated with the property’s fountain logo. Local vets ABC Animal Hospital, Gotham and Whole Health had booths too as did Cauz for Pawz thrift shop, which benefits animals.