By Maria Rocha-Buschel
The Madison Square Park dog run is getting a makeover, courtesy of a project from the Madison Square Park Conservancy, which presented its plans for the run at a Community Board 5 meeting on Monday.
Tom Reidy, a senior project manager for the Conservancy who presented the project at the recent meeting, said that one of the main goals of the renovations was to expand the small dog area in the park by flipping the orientation.
“Right now, the small dog area mostly gets used as a time out spot for bigger dogs,” Reidy said of the current configuration. The small dog section of the run is currently on the northern end, so the plans would have the area for small dogs in the southern end, giving them more space to run around.
Both the small and big dog areas would include small berms, or hills, with K-9 turf, a type of artificial grass designed specifically for dogs that is supposed to offer better drainage than the surface currently in the dog run.
There will also be a small water feature running along the fence between the small and big dog areas and dog owners will be able to control the flow with a button so the water isn’t running at all times.
Benches and umbrellas running along the edge of the dog run will be replaced and lighting in the park will be increased because Reidy said that the area gets relatively dark and is not currently well-lit.
Reidy said that since the project is more complex than the new entrance recently installed at 24th Street, it will take longer to complete and the run will likely be closed while work is being done for six to nine months, although the start of work is still roughly a year and a half away.
The plans for the dog run ended up last on the agenda at the recent meeting and dog owner Joe Schmidt said that there were other attendees who ultimately left by the time the plans for the run were addressed, so by the time Reidy made his presentation only two members of the public were there to comment on the project.
Schmidt, who lives on East 34th Street and Park Avenue but has been going to Madison Square Park for the dog run for more than 25 years, said that he has concerns about the water feature because of inattentive dog owners.
“Most people think I work there because I’m always cleaning up,” he said. “People bring their dogs to play but then they don’t watch them and the biggest problem is the water area.”
Brooke Bessert, the other member of the public at the meeting, said that she has lived on East 24th Street for about 20 years and had been hoping for more extensive improvements to the run.
“The neighborhood has completely changed over the years but (the dog run) is a beautiful amenity,” she said. “I was just hoping that the surface would be softer, drainage would be better and the park would be bigger.”
Bessert said that she has an older dog and concrete is rough on her pooch’s joints, so she was interested in a surface that would be more gentle than concrete.
Reidy did not indicate if the size of the run was something that could be negotiated but said that the Conservancy was open to examining other surfaces to be used in the run. He also noted that drainage would definitely be improved when the renovations are complete.
“That’s one of the reasons that we’re doing this,” he said.
Although the dog run is owned by the Parks Department, the Conservancy is working with landscape architecture firm SWA/Balsley to design the project and the plan is being privately funded by money raised through the Conservancy. Reidy said at the CB5 meeting that the $1.5-million project is currently about 80 percent funded. The Parks Department is involved in the process in that the agency has oversight of the project and the Conservancy has to follow city rules and receive the appropriate approvals.