In all five boroughs of New York there are roughly 500,000 registered dogs and only 84 dog runs; a little less than half of them are in Manhattan. City Council Member Eric Bottcher has been making strides to turn New York City into a better place for dogs. Recently on his Instagram he posted a photo at the new dog run at Pier 84, which after remodels now features rocks for dogs to play on, a water station and more. But that’s not his only concern when it comes to dog parks.
Earlier this year constituents came forward to complain about the lack of dog parks in Chelsea. This came about due to the recent temporary closures of both the Chelsea Waterside Dog Run and Jemmy’s Dog Run in Madison Square Park; both parks were under construction and Jemmy’s Dog Run has since reopened.
As a remedy, Bottcher set out to open a temporary dog run. According to Sean Coughlin, Bottcher’s chief of staff, Bottcher walks through the Penn South Playground every day and saw a potential spot for a dog run. He “noticed this forlorn area that was never used,” says Coughlin, “so he approached the parks department and said, ‘Hey, we know that there’s going to be these two temporary closures for the local dog runs. Could we potentially look at this location as an option for a temporary dog run?’” The Parks Department initially said “No” (although they came around eventually), so Bottcher worked with individuals in the neighborhood to make the park possible.
“People Came Together”
Creating this new space involved bringing together the community. Amanda Mosner was a volunteer for the temporary dog run before the Parks Department got involved. She helped lock the gate at night and reported if anything there was amiss in the park. “There are other people who help out more casually by bringing water jugs, people bring toys and stuff,” she said. One person donated several benches with storage space so dog owners could store jugs of water or other doggy essentials. “I feel like in that spur of the moment so many people came together to help,” says Marina Levin, another volunteer at the dog park.
Mosner also appreciates the sense of the community she’s found since the dog run has been open. “It has created a bigger sense of community in this area,” says Mosner who also lives across the street from the park. “People didn’t talk to each other [before]. I’ve made friends in the in the dog park.”
Trouble Sets In
But the temporary dog run is not without its problems. Several people have complained about the lack of a water source. Jan, one neighbor who utilizes the park, expanded by saying, “There’s no water features. Dogs are thirsty. It’s very sunny here. They don’t clean it. Like it smells like urine all the time.” She also mentioned that the dog park doesn’t open until 8 a.m., which is too late for people who want to take their dogs out before heading to their 9-to-5.
Meanwhile, Levin also dealt with noise complaints related to the park. Many neighbors are frustrated with the barking that now takes place during the day. “We really do try to be neighborly and ask owners who have barking dogs to minimize the noise and for the most part people have been lovely and compliant,” she says. “There really has been a big community effort to maintain the noise volume.”
Saving the Dog Run
Since Jemmy’s Dog Run has reopened, there has been a conversation about shutting down the temporary dog park again. The community board is preparing for a vote in October to determine whether or not the temporary dog run should become permanent.
Shelli Rosen, another volunteer for the park, has been leading the charge for keeping the park open permanently. She created a petition that, as of the writing of this piece, had 581 signatures out of the 1,000 she’s hoping for.
“I’m on 24th Street, so it’s a lot better for me,” says Jeff Bregman, a local dog walker. Though this is not Bregman’s favorite dog run, he says “they should definitely keep this open if they can” because of the convenience for everyone in the neighborhood.
Bottcher is on the side of keeping the dog run as a permanent fixture in Chelsea. According to Coughlin, Bottcher wants “to get as much investment in our local park spaces that are already existing and to encourage the creation of new green space.” On top of that earlier this year Bottcher’s office was “able to allocate $4 million in this year’s budget to get the total renovation of the Penn South Playground, including making it ADA accessible.” If the dog park stays it is unclear how much money would go towards improving it.
But for now it seems like the neighborhood is in favor of the dog run, despite it’s many flaws. As Mosner said: “It takes takes a village to run a dog park.”
“It takes a village to run a dog park.” Volunteer Amanda Mosner