Redesigned dog run in the works for Madison Sq. Park

A park goer looks at a diagram outlining the planned dog run. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Madison Square Park Conservancy has announced a plan to renovate the dog run in the park, known as Jemmy’s Run, this past weekend.

The new run will be in the same place as the existing run but will be reconfigured to add more space for small dogs and to include new amenities, such as increased lighting, small hills and a water feature.

“We haven’t been able to serve small dogs in the existing space,” the conservancy’s executive director Keats Meyer said on Saturday at Barkfest, an event at the park for dogs and their owners. “It ends up being sort of like a cage, like a ‘small dog time out.’”

Meyer said that the renovations plans have been reviewed by neighborhood dog owners in previous workshops and surveys and adjusted based on community suggestions and needs. Meyer noted that one aspect of the plan that many respondents of the survey agreed on was changing the surface because users of the run don’t like the gravel that is currently there.

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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.”

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Kips Bay dog run delayed due to city budget errors

Bellevue Park South (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Bellevue Park South (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

A dog run for Bellevue Park South has been stymied by bureaucratic funding woes and miscommunications between the City Council and the Parks Department, Town & Village learned last week.

The Kips Bay Neighborhood Association had been working with City Councilmember Rosie Mendez on the project and last year, Mendez allocated $1.2 million for the new dog run. However, Mendez said she was later told by the Parks Department that the project would ultimately cost closer to $6 million.

She said officials at the city agency told her last May that the project wouldn’t be able to move forward unless it was fully funded and in the meantime, she learned that McKinley Playground on Avenue A and East 3rd Street needed about the same amount that had been allocated to the Bellevue South project, so before the city’s budget was approved in June, she decided to move the money to the McKinley project instead.

“I figured that I could either put the $1.2 million into the Bellevue South Park and have no projects move forward, or I could have another project get completed,” Mendez said. “I decided to move forward with the other project and that’s the decision I would make again today.”

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‘Limited’ flea market to return to ST

Residents ask questions at the meeting, which was attended by around 100 people. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

Residents ask questions at the meeting, which was attended by around 100 people. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

Also: No permanent dog run, and no more marketing to students

By Sabina Mollot

On Saturday, Stuyvesant Town General Manager Rick Hayduk spoke at a meeting held by the ST-PCV Tenants Association to give updates on the property and to address tenant concerns from student apartments to rogue cyclists.

He also gave a long awaited answer to the frequent requests for a dog run — not happening — but indicated the defunct Stuyvesant Town flea market will return if management can find a way to do it that doesn’t increase the risk of bed bugs.

“They are horrific,” he said of the blood-sucking critters. Hayduk added that if the event were to be brought back, there would need to be so many items banned, from furniture to clothing, that, “The only thing left is a picture of dogs playing poker.”

When the resident who’d asked about the market responded to say she believed tenants would cooperate with whatever rules management comes up with, Hayduk responded, “It’s not a definitive no.”

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Letters to the editor, May 12

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Landlords are not hurting for money

Re: “Tenants may get rent freeze,” T&V, May 5

To Whom it May Concern:

So the landlords want more money. Surprise, surprise, as they say once again they can’t make a living.  Let me tell you a secret.

I personally know one owner who has over fifty apartment buildings in New York City whose net worth is over $300 million dollars. Money is not a problem. I know another owner who is worth more than a billion dollars from residential real estate owned throughout the country.

So to those real estate owners who need more money? Let me tell them, either they don’t know how to make money in real estate or they should find another business. Don’t quote me, but there is probably less than one-half of one percent of real estate owners who are somehow suffering. That is not enough to give them an increase.

So please, call whomever you can. Tell them that apartment owners don’t need a raise.

They are doing pretty well with the way things are.

Larry Edwards, ST

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Letters to the Editor, Jan. 21

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Con Ed blocking Ave. C parking spots

Dear T&V,

I have a complaint about a parking situation currently happening on East 16th Street just south of Avenue C. This street is located between two properties belonging to Con Edison. The block has public parking spaces for about 15 cars as regulated by D.O.T. signage.

For the last couple of weeks, Con Ed has been placing cones in the street prohibiting people from parking there. (Except perhaps their own employees or contractors.) They even employ an outside agency of some sort to have someone stand there and tell people they can’t park there. There are no work order notices or temporary suspension indication on the street parking signs. There is no digging or other signs of work taking place. They have parked a large generator on the street for some time and they recently added a second one.

Recently I sought parking there around 5:45 p.m. and the street was empty. The cones were out and I was told there was no parking allowed. Forty-five minutes later, still looking for a spot, I found several passenger cars parked there with cones placed on top. They were okay to park there, I guess? Friends of Con Ed?

I am a resident of Stuyvesant Town who uses a car for work each day. Parking is difficult enough without Con Ed taking over a public thoroughfare without any apparent permits to do so. Is Con Ed just doing as they please because they can? Have they secured the proper authority to take over public parking? Why are there no postings of temporary work permits? Do they intend to “take over” this space permanently and further diminish the availability of street parking? This would lead to a host of other quality of life issues.

Thank you for your assistance in looking into this matter.

Name withheld, ST

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Repair of Stuyvesant Square Park’s historic fence to start soon, city says

Money was raised to fix the fence outside of Stuyvesant Square Park in 2012. (Photo by Michael Alcamo)

Money was raised to fix the fence outside of Stuyvesant Square Park in 2012. (Photo by Michael Alcamo)

By Sabina Mollot

It was almost two and half years ago, in June of 2012 when the last $600,000 needed for the restoration of Stuyvesant Square Park’s historic, cast iron fence and the surrounding sidewalk was finally allocated after years of fundraising. The project, which had been pushed by the Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association, eventually had a total price tag of $5.5 million, funded by local elected officials.

But today, work on the fence on the park’s east section, which needs some of its rotted pieces recreated, still hasn’t begun. A separate project to fix the park’s west section fence had been completed earlier. Work to accompany the fence project, such as fixing the damaged bluestone sidewalk, has also still not been done. Yet another long awaited and related project, to install a curb cut or ramp at the park’s eastern gate to allow access to wheelchair users, has also still not happened.

But fortunately for those whose who’ve been following the progress, or rather lack of it, change does finally appear to be on the horizon.

Community Board 6’s Parks Committee has been assured by the Parks Department that work will begin soon. Or rather, that it already has. Mark Thompson, who heads Community Board 6’s Parks Committee, said he’s been told the official start date of the project was October 20. However, he was also warned that this wouldn’t mean shovels would hit the ground on that date although work would begin internally on the project.

As for when the actual repairs will start, there still doesn’t seem to be a set date for that, and one local tree-planting and park activist, Michael Alcamo, has said he’ll believe it when he sees it.

Alcamo, a Stuyvesant Town resident, had spearheaded a letter writing campaign in 2012 that was instrumental in securing the last of the funds for the project from then-Borough President Scott Stringer. Though he conceded some of the blame for the delay on getting started was finding artisans capable of repairing the landmarked fence, which apparently there aren’t too many of, he said he is now concerned the project is no longer even considered a priority by the city. Alcamo referred to the mayor’s recently announced initiative to focus on the needs of parks in outer boroughs, particularly in poorer areas.

“Has the money been allocated to outer boroughs? That would be useful for the community to know,” said Alcamo.

He added that the fence isn’t even his main concern, but the cracked sidewalk is since that could pose a danger to pedestrians, as is the lack of of a wheelchair ramp.

Tree and park activist Michael Alcamo has been pushing the city to install a ramp for disabled park goers at the park’s entrance. (Photo by Michael Alcamo)

Tree and park activist Michael Alcamo has been pushing the city to install a ramp for disabled park goers at the park’s entrance. (Photo by Michael Alcamo)

“In 1990, the Americans With Disabilities Act required that public facilities, including parks, must be accessible to persons with disabilities,” said Alcamo. “The eastern side of Stuyvesant Square Park, which faces Stuyvesant Town, has not been in compliance for 24 years. We have been asking for four years for a curb cut in order to make the park accessible to persons of limited mobility.”

Alcamo, who recently founded an organization called Friends of Stuyvesant Square Park, had hoped to speed up the curb cut installation by asking Community Board 6 to pass a resolution calling for the work to be done, but, he said, the board’s Parks Committee declined. As for why the committee didn’t want to take that step, Thompson told Town & Village he didn’t think a resolution would be necessary since the community board has already had assurances from the Parks Department that the project will begin soon, including the installation of a ramp.

Thompson added that he did understand Alcamo’s concerns since early on the fundraising process, $500,000 of the project’s funds were reallocated to another Parks Department need.

“It shouldn’t have happened, but it did,” said Thompson. Because of this, CB6 has been “politely” nudging the city about the park from time to time. “We’re all concerned,” he said. But he added, “the money is allocated. It is happening.”

A rep for Parks echoed Thompson in saying the city is not redirecting the project’s cash elsewhere.

“No funds have been reallocated from Manhattan to the other boroughs and all the funds allocated for this project are intact,” Philip Abramson, a Parks Department spokesperson told T&V.

The contractor on the project is UA Construction, who was selected after the initially chosen vendor (chosen for being the lowest bidder) ended up not working out. UA Construction was the second lowest bidder. The lowest bidder, Abramson said, “was not successful in going through the pre-qualification process.”

He didn’t respond to a question about why the first company didn’t qualify though he did say that at this time UA Construction is working with the Department of Transportation on getting a permit for a street closure so work can begin.

Rosalee Isaly, the president of the Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association, said she’s had a recent discussion with Parks reps to make sure the dog walkers who come to use the park’s dog run will be able to access it while work is ongoing.

“They’ll be aware of them,” she said of the dog walkers. She added that come springtime, the park’s west side will also get some attention with the installation of an irrigation system. “All that planting that gets done needs water and the watering this past summer was torturous,” she said. “They had to drag in hoses.”

The labor-intensive act of planting should pay off in the spring though. Dozens of volunteers, mainly high school and college students, have been participating in monthly gardening days at the park to plant, paint benches and rake leaves. On a volunteer day in October, around 11,500 bulbs for tulips, daffodils and bluebells were planted.

“It’s really warming,” said Isaly. “I think it’s going to be spectacular spring in the park.”

A DOT spokesperson did not respond to a request from T&V asking about the status of the permit and where the street closures would be exactly.

Etiquette at the dog run

Volunteers planning new rules for Madison Square Park dog run

Jemmy’s dog run volunteers John Thomas with his dog Higgins and Emily Khasidy with her dog Finlay (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Jemmy’s dog run volunteers John Thomas with his dog Higgins and Emily Khasidy with her dog Finlay (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot
When it comes to behavior at the dog runs, the rules for humans are pretty universal; pick up after Fido, don’t let him get into fights with other dogs and don’t allow any other behavior you wouldn’t want a child strolling by to witness.

And while most dog owners are responsible, there always seem a few bad apples that give the rest a bad rep. So, at one local dog run, the volunteers who help maintain it are planning to implement a few new, albeit basic rules, which they shared with Town & Village.

This would be at Jemmy’s Dog Run, the 12-year-old dog run at Madison Square Park. Jemmy’s is maintained by the Parks Department and the Madison Square Park Conservancy with the help of volunteers in a dog run association.

Two of the association’s core group of active members are Flatiron residents John Thomas, owner of olde English bulldogge Higgins and Emily Khasidy, owner of Finlay, a rhodesian ridgeback. Both dog owners checked out a number of other dog runs’ rules and policies before coming up with a list for Jemmy’s, which they said will go up on signage soon after the association reviews them.

A few of the rules (which may or may not end up on the official list) are as follows:

Do not feed the dogs, unless they’re your own.

According to Thomas and Khasidy, it isn’t uncommon for dog lovers to want to feed others’ dogs treats. But this isn’t appropriate, since dog runs are not petting zoos.

Do not play rough with dogs. While dogs will play rough with each other, this doesn’t give people a free pass to do the same. Khasidy said sometimes it’s necessary for one owner to say to another, albeit nicely, “You’re playing too rough with him and he doesn’t like that.”

Don’t bring children into the run for the purpose of playing with dogs. Thomas and Khasidy said they occasionally see parents bring children into the run to attempt to get them socialized with dogs or to see how they are around them. But dog owners wish they wouldn’t.

“Some people let their kids in here, but I wouldn’t let my dog in the playground,” said Thomas. While this may sound harsh, dog owners, he reasoned, have a reason to be. “If he bites you, you can have him put down.” Khasidy agreed, noting if her dog bites someone, “a judge isn’t going to side with me. So we want to put a sign since not all dogs like kids and not all kids like dogs.”

Be mindful of behavioral issues of dogs that haven’t been neutered or spayed.

Khasidy said sometimes those dogs just won’t get along with other dogs. If that’s the case, “If your unneuetered dog is causing a problem, it might be best to remove your dog from the park for a while.” This, Thomas acknowledged, may lead to fights between owners over who has to leave. However, even more fights tend to occur over the next rule.

Don’t hold the gate open any longer than necessary. The dogs could get out and end up in traffic.

Don’t bring in poorly socialized dogs.

“One example,” said Thomas, “is a guy whose dog was a rescue pit bill, who spent most of his life in a crate. Dogs in that situation, he explained, will end up scared in a dog run with other dogs, and could also end up scaring other owners. “Because it was a pit bull, to someone else it could be very scary.”

Pick up after your dog. Though it may sound obvious, even seasoned dog owners can get distracted and end up not noticing that their dog has left something behind. “People are on headphones an they don’t look at their dogs,” said Thomas. “You have to make an effort to be aware of what your dog’s doing.” Dog poop, he added, is the number one infraction at the dog run. In Khasidy’s view, the best way to deal with this is directly; with dog owners sometimes having to point out poop piles to other owners. When she’s done it, owners have handled it politely, she said.

Meanwhile, along with its goal of new signage, the dog run association is trying to raise funds for some improvements for the Jemmy’s. Short term goals are to get new gravel (since the current gravel, larger pebbles, can get stuck on dogs’ paws) and to fix a bench that was partially dismantled when a smaller dog got a paw stuck inside the planks. Since then, with the surface removed, dogs that have been jumping around it have managed to sail inside and get hurt. More longterm goals are to get a water feature more elaborate than the current one (a garden hose), better drainage and some sort of structure that would offer more shade.

Jemmy’s Dog Run came about when the Conservancy orchestrated a renovation of the entire park, which was at the time run down and drug-ridden. Twelve years later, around 75-100 dogs use Jemmy’s run each day, mostly neighborhood dogs during the week, and others from further away on weekends. It’s named after James Madison, whose nickname was Jemmy.

Along with the dog run and its fence in 2002 (a separate fence for an area for smaller dogs wouldn’t come until 2011) the park also got new lighting and a reflecting pool for the north end.

More recently, an association of local dog owners was formed with the aim of maintaining as well as improving the dog run. The dog run costs the Conservancy about $50,000 each year to maintain, including the cost of the staffer to clean it, and repairs on infrastructure as well as the recently added large shade umbrellas. Those, branded with the conservancy logo, cost $1,000 each.

Currently, a website aimed at raising money for the run has been confusing to some would-be donors, since it refers to the spot as James’ dog run, so Thomas recommended that anyone with questions about Jemmy’s email volunteers at maddogcommittee@gmail.com.