By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Pooch owners in Kips Bay celebrated the opening of a temporary dog run in Bellevue South Park earlier this month after having pushed for the run for years. Neighborhood group KBK9 announced on its Facebook page on December 16 that the temporary run had been opened since the double gate was fully installed that week. The spot for the temporary run is an already fenced-in area adjacent to the basketball courts near the East 26th Street end of the park. Community advocates have been pushing for a fully ADA-compliant dog run in the space and while the temporary version is not accessible, the completed run will be once renovations are finished.
Dog owners using the park on Wednesday morning said they were grateful for the run’s opening, since they don’t want to have to take their dogs too far from home now that winter’s begun. Karen Keavey lives two blocks from Bellevue South and said that the next closest dog run is Madison Square Park, which is at least a 20-minute walk, whereas Bellevue South is a four-minute walk for her and her puggle, Louis.
“This has changed my life,” Keavey said. “It’s good for the park that this has opened up. It brings a different element in.”
Stephanie Orstad, who lives on East 33rd Street, used to live in Toronto, which she said has more amenities for dogs and their owners than New York, so she was excited to see the city becoming more dog-friendly.
“Every time I’ve come, there are dogs in here in the mornings, usually between 8 and 10 a.m.,” Orstad said.
KBK9, along with the Kips Bay Neighborhood Association and The Friends of Bellevue South Park, has been working with Council Members Rosie Mendez and Dan Garodnick and Borough President Gale Brewer to get funding for a dog run in the park. East 28th Street resident Aaron Humphrey told Town & Village that he and community advocates Karen Lee, Pauline Yablonski, Marie Fetzer and David Hyman have primarily been leading the efforts for the run through the various community groups and CB6.
Brewer, Mendez and Garodnick previously allocated $1.1 million of funding for the project, and the plan garnered support from the mayor’s office this October after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced during a town hall meeting that he would be contributing $3.5 million, for a total of $4.6 in funding. Once the renovations are complete, the park will have an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant dog run as well as renovated play areas, basketball court and central sitting area. The temporary version of the run has two steps leading into the space and is not yet ADA-compliant but Humphrey told T&V that Parks supplied the double gate with a locking clasp generally used at dog runs to prevent pups from running off.
Lee previously told Town & Village that most dog runs in the city aren’t ADA-compliant and the funding is necessary to make changes to the space that will make it accessible, such as an access ramp, automatic openers for the entrance gates and a nonskid surface.
“Hospital row is right there and there’s a huge community of disabled people in this neighborhood who already use this park,” she said prior to a Community Board meeting on the project last April.
The Parks Department and representatives of local elected officials met with advocates last April after the CB6 meeting to review the space as a possibility for a temporary run, but at the time Parks could not confirm that the spot was viable for a dog park.
A representative from Parks did not return a request for comment on what aspects of the project had been approved or when construction would start for the permanent run, but the dog run is listed on the Parks’ website for Bellevue South as a proposed project for the park along with basketball court reconstruction, and the agency will be holding community meetings to get input for the project before it begins.
Humphrey noted that the groups working on the dog run are hoping to hold a ribbon cutting for the park’s new feature sometime in January of next year.