Sunday, September 09, 2007

Self-centered, lunatic fringe "win" again

The following article is from The New York Times:

Dispatches The Gardens of Bruised Feelings By Jake Mooney
September 9, 2007

IN 27 years as a federal prosecutor, Ruth Nordenbrook faced down such formidable foes as the reputed Bonanno family boss Joseph Massino and his onetime underling Vincent Basciano, a k a Vinny Gorgeous. But Ms. Nordenbrook, who is 62 and who retired in 2005, may have finally met the adversaries persistent enough to wear her down. They typically stand one or two feet tall, and have damp noses and names like Roxy and Geo.

They are the dogs belonging to Ms. Nordenbrook’s neighbors in the Fulton Ferry Landing area of Brooklyn, and they are in the middle of a struggle between pet owners and community groups over a series of traffic islands at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Ms. Nordenbrook, who along with a few other volunteers maintained flower beds on the islands for more than a decade, notified her neighbors this spring that she was quitting, complaining that local dogs’ use of the land as a chamber pot was making it too hard to continue the work. Her resignation was reported in The Brooklyn Paper.

No replacement gardeners have yet emerged, the beds are tangled and overgrown, people still walk their dogs on the islands, and the Fulton Ferry Landing Association, a neighborhood group, is preparing to ask for city help.

On a sunny afternoon last week, Ms. Nordenbrook stood by the one small patch that she is still tending and announced that she remains resolute about giving up the rest of the gardens.

“I’m sorry to see it that way,” she said, “but I don’t miss the aggravation.” In fact, she finds the break calming. “I can even now see people walking down there with their dogs, and I don’t start foaming at the mouth.”

Some of her neighbors are less sanguine. “That has been the labor of a few totally dedicated residents to maintain the area,” said Katrin Adam, a board member of the Fulton Ferry Landing Association. “If you have people in the area who are willing to take these things on, to be disrespected by dog owners is a terrible thing.”

Ms. Adam said her group plans to meet this month to discuss options like putting low fences around the flower beds or seeking maintenance help from the city’s Parks Department. Exactly who has jurisdiction over the traffic islands, however, is complicated. The spaces were created in the 1990s when the state’s Department of Transportation overhauled the bridge’s off-ramp, but at the time the neighborhood group agreed to maintain them.

Things went along smoothly for years, Ms. Adam said, but with the population of the nearby Dumbo neighborhood swelling, the area is home to more pets than ever. Many are escorted to the traffic islands, and many stop to relieve themselves there.

Last spring came a series of confrontations involving both professional dog walkers and area residents who were walking their dogs themselves. Ms. Nordenbrook admitted that she uttered some unkind words, and said that people generally responded by informing her that they were on public property, in a free country, and she should mind her own business.

One of those people was James Lewis, who lives in a co-op across the street from the traffic islands and regularly walks through the area with the aforementioned Roxy and Geo, a miniature dachshund and a Boston terrier.

Mr. Lewis, as it happened, was passing through the abandoned flower beds last week just as Ms. Nordenbrook was recalling their first tense meeting. This time, the two exchanged polite, if sheepish, greetings; they buried the hatchet some time ago, Mr. Lewis said, and his dogs now relieve themselves in a different area. Once everyone cooled off, he said, the way to solve the problem was easy.

Thinking back on the dispute, Mr. Lewis said: “I don’t even know if it really has anything to do with pets. I think people’s reactions in a lot of situations have to do with who’s in control, and ‘What are my rights?’ rather than ‘What are another person’s feelings?’ ”