Kips Bay residents ask for temporary dog run

At a Community Board 6 meeting, delays on getting the funding for the dog run for Bellevue South Park were explained. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Dog owners in Kips Bay are pushing the Parks Department to consider a temporary solution for the lack of a dog run in Bellevue South Park. Members of multiple neighborhood groups made their case at a recent Parks Committee meeting of Community Board 6, arguing that a temporary run near the basketball courts would give residents an immediate place to play with Fido instead of having to wait at least five years while the Parks Department completes additional renovations on the park.

Kips Bay Neighborhood Association member Karen Lee said at the meeting that there is an area north of the basketball courts that is already fenced in and the group has submitted an application for a grant for $280,000 from Borough President Gale Brewer’s office to make changes to the space, such as an access ramp, a nonskid surface and automatic openers for the entrance gates. Lee said that the funding is mainly necessary to make the space accessible for residents with disabilities, which she said is one of the main motivations for pushing for the dog run in the first place.

“Dog runs in the city aren’t ADA compliant,” she explained prior to the meeting. “This would be the first dog run in the city that is ADA compliant. Hospital row is right there and there’s a huge community of disabled people in this neighborhood who already use this park.”

Disability advocate Naomi Jones noted at the meeting that such a space is a necessity for some residents who have dogs that aren’t pets but are service animals.

Councilmember Rosie Mendez and Manhattan Borough Commissioner for the Parks Department Steve Simon were both at the meeting to clarify budgeting confusion that has also plagued the project in the last few months. Members of the Kips Bay Neighborhood Association, KBK9 and other community groups working on the run were shocked to learn in February that the project would be put on hold because the budget ballooned from around $1.25 million to $6 million.

As Town & Village previously reported and as Mendez explained at the meeting, this was because the Parks Department changed their estimates and advised Mendez to move the funds to a different project since the Bellevue South Park project reportedly couldn’t be done in phases and needed to be fully funded in order to start the process.

Simon said at the meeting that he would take “full responsibility” for the change because he advised Mendez to move the funds to a different project but added that Parks went back to redesign the project and the most recent estimate is $4.15 million, and that it will be possible to complete in phases.

Simon and Mendez explained that the reason for the increase at all was due to the desire to include renovations to reconfigure the play equipment. The current layout separates equipment for older and younger children with space in between where men from the nearby homeless shelter often congregate. The first phase, estimated at $2.3 million, would be to remove and replace play equipment for older children closer to the equipment for young children and have everything fenced in.

If the project goes forward as planned, Mendez does currently have $2 million in funding for the project and said she is hoping that Brewer’s office might be able to contribute additional funding to get through the first phase. She added that she has also been speaking with Councilmember Dan Garodnick about contributing funding for the $300,000 difference because even though the park is outside his district, some of his constituents use the area as well.

Mendez said that it would be helpful if the temporary run through the grant from the borough president’s office is feasible, but she added that she would prefer to include reconfiguration of the play equipment into the project.

“We’ve had issues in different parks where kids are molested and the play equipment for ages five to 12 (in Bellevue South Park) doesn’t have a fence and is right next to the adult equipment for calisthenics,” she said. “It’s a very ambiguous park. I think it’s in the best interests of the community to move all the play equipment together.”

Lee explained that neighborhood groups began speaking with the borough president’s office about the grant when it looked like funding initially fell through, looking at areas of the park that wouldn’t require moving any equipment. However, she added that she was supportive of the plan from Parks mainly because the community’s plan would be temporary due to budgeting constraints and the goal is to have a permanent run that is fully ADA compliant.

Lee disagreed, though, about renovating the equipment being the only way to prevent men loitering in the playground, arguing that having a temporary dog run could alleviate the problem as well.

“Children don’t play in that park now anyway because of the guys that are there,” she said. “You want to get rid of the bad element in the park first, and when you have a lot of people that use the park with their dogs, the bad element tends to move away. A dog run is active and is usually active all the time. The first step should be to get safety in the park even if it’s temporary so at least we’ll have an active dog run for those five years before the second phase.”

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4 thoughts on “Kips Bay residents ask for temporary dog run

  1. Really? How much tax does an average dog pay to the City? Why should my tax money
    go towards a dog run? You might challenge ‘what about kids?’ But I do believe that children are different — and hope that folks view them as much more important. Plus “, eventually, most of them will pay taxes.

    I understand that folks love their dogs, but I question any financial obligation to create a playground for animals. Or, let the owners pay.

    • Ahhh, if it’s not the lady who also said that children of rent stabilized tenants don’t deserve to have their parents apartment passed down to them. Now the vendetta is against a dog run.

      I hate to break it to you, but there are a lot of things that are paid for with taxpayer money that people don’t agree with, but something so microscopic in cost as a dog run is not something that is gonna break the bank.

  2. This is a relatively small city park, 2 avenue blocks wide, about 1/4 of a street block deep.

    My understanding is that Rosie Mendez (it’s in her district) has been trying to gather funds to upgrade the park and playgrounds for years. The intention was to make it a nicer place for the children in the area. Compared with other playgrounds immediately south of Bellevue South, the playground area is in poor condition, poorly equipped, poorly maintained. The park is also a magnet for the indigent and hence, all parts but the basketball courts appear avoided, under-utilized. You can see that surrounding buildings have developed their own little play areas, probably to avoid use of the park. Also the area suffers from being in shadow much of the time.

    Part of Rosie Mendez’ goal is to create an environment that doesn’t draw the indigent. Increased use is expected to do this. I’m not sure this would actually work. I believe the ADA-compliant dog run is an add-on that developed from a request from a nearby disabled resident who owes a dog.

    I give Rosie credit for having a heart. But publicly funded dog runs within such a small park immediately surrounded by residential buildings raises issues of additional cost, extent of use, noise and ongoing maintenance.

    Each councilman has discretionary funds, As Rosie is short of funding, she’s hoping to fill part of the shortfall with funds granted by Dan Garodnick. So I think it’s appropriate for folks from Garodnick’s district to weigh in.

    I think most folks would want the children in the area to have a decent place to play. The dog run, however, strikes me as posing questions that are open for debate.

    • To all,

      This grass roots community effort to make our Kips Bay streets safe has many moving parts. Stuy Town etc. are far safer areas to live in and perhaps you might not have the issues of Riker’s recent inmates following your children on the streets. We do. We also have an 850 bed men’s shelter that does not allow the “clients” indoors after breakfast and before dinner. This population and the Riker’s clients go to our neighborhood park, hang out, do drugs or methadone. The park cannot be safely used by local residents at present.

      A Dog run provides continuous activation of a Park, continuous occupation of a public space by residents and dogs will displace the bad element – as an urban planner and architect. I am happy to confirm this by experience, but also to share any study on this topic requested. Just email me.

      The Dog Run is our first step in keeping our children safe. The playgrounds will only be safely used AFTER the park is safe.

      On the council’s part, Rosie Mendez has been deaf to community calls for years. She initially asked the community to support a dogrun. Within a year, she completely disavowed her support. The funding thing is a game; there is no conversation with Dan Garodnick’s office. That is incorrect.

      Barry,
      As is Barry’s statement :
      ” But publicly funded dog runs within such a small park immediately surrounded by residential buildings raises issues of additional cost, extent of use, noise and ongoing maintenance.”

      The cost is minor, as the area we have dedicated is already fenced, and we have a full volunteer team for maintenance of the dog run established. We do not have the luxury of silence as does StuyTown here I am afraid and the dogs are already there. I understand from your StuyTown letters, you are anti- dog. Many people are; however, this is not about dogs.

      This effort, like all good urban planning, addresses numerous issues. This dogrun will serve the extensive hospital patient population and the extensive population immediate to the Park who rely on “working” dogs for life safety; It will assist in street and park safety for our children, which in turn, that safety will spill over into the rest of the Kips Bay area immediately adjacent to the Men’s Shelter.

      The street safety of Kips Bay has been virtually ignored by our Council member and her staff for 12 years – unfortunately. So residents have taken on this burden ourselves without support; rather it is much the opposite. Case in point, on of the leaders of this effort has been told by Mendez’ chief of staff that they are actively opposing the BP granting the money to this neighborhood safety measure – that is the KBK9 Dogrun.

      I hope this note explains where we are, and we hope we have your support. Thank you.

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