Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Dog runs, community board input & signage

Here is a link to an article from the publication "The Village" entitled "Leroy Run Crowded and Unsafe, Small-dog Owners Howl". It points out some glaring inconsistencies in the NYCDog and Department of Parks and Recreation's argument for off-leash privileges in unenclosed areas of city parks. A couple of the more obvious complaints by dog owners are concerns for:

- Dogs getting hit by cars
- Small dogs being attacked and, sometimes, killed by larger dogs

I also find it interesting that the process in the Leroy Street area, appropriately, involved discussions with and decisions by Community Board 2. Prospect Park's boundaries include Community Boards 6, 7, 8, 9 and 14. None were involved in the decision to allow dog owners to unleash their dogs in Prospect Park.

The decision to allow unleashed dogs on all of the park's open meadows and the lake was made by Tupper Thomas of the Prospect Park Alliance. I should note that she is not on the City Council nor is she the parks commissioner, yet she has determined a city policy in Prospect Park.

Tupper has signs removed to appease dog owners

The follow excerpt is from the newsletter of the Park Slope organization, "Fellowship for the Interest of Dogs" (FIDO). It is from the organization's president Mary McInerny's column "From the Alpha Desk" spring 2004:

"Finally, a note to all the denizens of the Peninsula who were dismayed to see those “No Pets in Lake” signs: one benefit of FIDO’s presence at all those Park meetings is access to the Powers That Be. The signs should be modified or removed by the time the water warms up. (Thanks, Tupper!)"

The signs were removed.

Access to dog runs

According to "Notice of Adoption of an Amendment to Article 161 of the New York City Health Code" the argument for off-leash areas stems from this:

"[Department of Parks and Recreation] has informed the [Department of Health] that this policy was implemented at the request of dog owners who had no alternative place to exercise their dogs."

Look at the map below. In the case of Brooklyn, if anyone from the Board of Health or Department of Parks bothered to investigate, the highest concentration of dog runs are in neighborhoods near Prospect Park. In addition to those locations, "The Gothamist", in May 2005 identified two more locations.

"May 9, 2005
Unofficial Dog Runs Closed in Brooklyn

Some Brooklyn residents are upset over the closure of three small parks near 18th Street and the Prospect Parkway. The NY post reports that many dog owners had used the parks as unofficial leash-free dog runs, but now the parks are being reseeded. And while Prospect Park is incredibly dog friendly, some residents feel that it's too far a walk. The Parks Department is considering other locations for dog runs in the area, and says that two of the three parks will be open to leashed dogs."

(Click to Enlarge Map)

I've observed dog owners still using that area for unleashing their dogs. I'll post photos at some point.

Why would the departments of health and parks grant a request with obvious broad implications for human and wildlife welfare? Why would the Department of Parks and Recreation acknowledge the high costs of maintaining an enclosed dog run by requiring dog associations to foot the bill, yet ignore the inevitable increases in park maintenance costs as a consequence of escalating and uncontrolled dog activity in city parks?

Prospect Park's own special rules

According to "Notice of Adoption of an Amendment to Article 161 of the New York City Health Code":

"Such rules shall include provisions that prohibit unrestrained dogs in unenclosed DOPR controlled areas and facilities except during a specified range of time, that shall not begin earlier than 9:00 p.m. and not extend past 9:00 a.m."

For several years dogs have been, and continue to be, permitted off-leash in Prospect Park beginning at 5PM. The PPA has even put up signs to that effect. The signs have been place strategically on the back of the triangular park signage displays. Most, if not all, face away from foot traffic, paths and roadways and towards the woods. Below are three examples. Like the designated off-leash locations, the fluctuating 5PM schedule is virtually ignored and interpreted as "all year".

(Click to Enlarge Images)