City holding dog run town halls

The series of events are for dog owners with questions or concerns about their local dog runs. (Pictured) Dogs and an owner at the Bellevue South Park Dog Run (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Sabina Mollot

Got a question or concern about Fido’s dog run? The New York City Parks Department is holding a series of four dog run town halls with the next one scheduled in Manhattan on April 14 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

The series, according to a spokesperson for the department Meghan Lalor, was inspired by similar public dog forums the department held in 2007 while finalizing an off-leash policy as well as a forum in 2010 when Assistant Commissioner Michael Dockett was named the agency’s “dog czar.”

Now, the department is “refreshing” the concept with the hopes of getting dog owners more involved in their local runs and to inform them about available resources. The first in the series on dog runs took place in Queens last weekend without about 40 people in attendance. The Manhattan venue will be the Tony Dapolito Recreation Center at 3 Clarkson Street, and dog owners should note that the event is for humans only.

As Lalor explained it in an email, “We felt there was a need to help dog owners who use off-leash hours, and dog run volunteer groups reconnect with each other and with Parks to share and update information, provide them with current, practical information about resources available through the city’s various agencies such as ACC, DOHMH and the ASPCA, and allow dog owners who use city parks to voice their concerns, suggestions, and ideas.”

Along with giving a presentation on the state of the city’s bark parks and how dog owners can help improve the ones they use, Parks employees will also address attendees’ questions and concerns. The department’s enforcement, capital and outreach employees will be at the events. Light refreshments will be served.

In some related news, the department will also be installing dog waste bag dispensers in some parks. This program is being piloted in parks that have been flagged for complaints of people not cleaning up after their pooches. Additionally, two new dog runs are currently being built in Manhattan, one at Corlears Hook, the other at Theodore Roosevelt Park. A new dog run debuted at Bellevue South Park in Kips Bay in December.

Anyone looking to see additional dog runs built, though, should take note that the city won’t open them until it’s clear that the project has the community’s support.

Lalor noted that while the department will always seek community feedback with regards to projects like playground redesigns, with dog runs, it’s especially important to also get backing from the relevant community board and local dog owners.

Meanwhile, at one local dog run at Stuyvesant Square, one ongoing debate is over whether the run, which is only open during certain hours, should become a 24/7 run. An idea floated by a board member of the Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association has been to compromise by keeping it open 24/7 during winter hours when the park is used less.

Another idea has been to open a second run so that one could be for smaller dogs, the other for larger ones for the pooches’ own safety.

“There are a couple of strips by the fence wall where nothing grows. That could be turned into a dog run,” said Rosalee Isaly, president of the SPNA. However, she noted, ultimately decisions like these are up to Parks.

At the Queens town hall, which the department considered a success, dog owners mainly had questions about rules and signage, young children in the runs, adding night lighting, getting funding for repairs, aggressive dogs and access to dog training and socialization sessions.

At this time, the city has around 70 dog runs as well as a dog beach at Prospect Park. Costs for their construction vary based on the conditions at the park, but on average have a price tag of $500,000 to $1 million and have an average size of 13,000 square feet.

For more information on the Manhattan town hall, call (212) 360-2778 or email deborah.zingale@parks.nyc.gov. A Brooklyn/Staten Island town hall will take place on April 21 followed by a Bronx town hall on April 28.

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