Leroy St. Dog Run is a bone of contention for an activist

BY T. SCHOEN  |  New Yorkers who choose to own a dog don’t have the space in their homes or even on the street for their often rambunctious beasts to exercise and enjoy themselves. That is why places like the Leroy St. Dog Run, in Hudson River Park, are crucial to the well-being of the neighborhood.

But this neighborhood nexus of dog activity, according to Lynn Pacifico, head of the Dog Owners Action Committee, is in an unsuitable condition. Overcrowding and unfinished surfaces, according to Pacifico, pose a danger to the health of the many dogs who use the space as a place to burn off their massive amounts of energy.

“The run is crowded when there are 10 dogs and their owners in there,” Pacifico said, “but there are often between 30 and 40 dogs in there at one time! It’s insane!”

Pacifico also mentioned that the park’s surface is too slippery, causing dogs to crash into the walls and fences if they’re carrying too much momentum.

The space, while big enough to accommodate a good number of dogs, does look a little too small for its purpose. The gray-and-blue pavement appears cracked and unfinished, standing out noticeably from the well-kept landscape of the rest of Hudson River Park. But this didn’t keep a fairly large, diverse crowd of dog owners from using the run, even at a mellow, quiet hour for the park. And people interviewed seemed mostly content with the dog run’s condition.

“The people here are very kind,” Ralph Perillo commented.

Another of Pacifico’s concerns about the run was the danger posed to smaller dogs by larger dogs. Yet again, dog owners interviewed, one of whom owned a small dog, actually said this was not a problem. Dog owners who know their dogs have aggressive tendencies will keep a watchful eye on them, they said. However, Pacifico does not attribute potentially violent behavior to any particular dog’s personality, but to what she called “instinctive drift,” an uncontrollable phenomenon that many dogs experience.

“People see the cuddly baby side of their dogs,” she said. “But every dog is only alive because their ancestors were good at killing small animals. The quick movements of a small animal trigger a prey drive, buried in the animal’s DNA, and the little dog becomes a target.”

With such unpredictable danger, space does become an issue — but not one, it seems, that grabs the attention of the people who use the run. In other words, other dog owners aren’t “getting her drift.”

During a recent visit, there were minor complaints from some dog owners, concerning the run. Renee Yakemchuk, who takes her dog to the park for exercise, said she would like to see some upgrades to the static, featureless run.

“I wish it had some obstacles like the ones they have in the run up on 34th St.,” she said. “I’d like to see the water running more.”

However flawed it may be, the Leroy St. Dog Run provides an essential service in preserving the neighborhood’s well-being, giving Lower West Side dog owners a place to let their dogs be what they are. And some Villagers are happy to see the pooches off the pavement and in the run.

“People start hassling you when you’re walking your dog,” Perillo said. “They want you to walk your dog in the street. People need this kind of place to go to.”

But the Leroy St. Dog Run could certainly use some improvement, maybe even a little expansion.

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3 Responses to Leroy St. Dog Run is a bone of contention for an activist

  1. Mickey Newman

    The small dog run is only part of the problem we dog owners face living down in the village. Many dogs, especially older ones, do not play in the runs. Most every other park in the city has off leash hours from dusk to dawn or 9:00 PM to 9:00 AM. Although Hudson River park isn’t ideal for this practice in many areas due to car traffic, we have many piers where it would be safe and totally unobtrusive for our dogs to run free. Hudson River park has continually denied us this right with no apparent reason. These piers are mostly deserted at these times. To have a dog that never has a chance to run free is sad. With a little cooperation from the powers that be this could be alleviated.

  2. The dog run is smaller than one tennis court, 4 people max usage… Over crowding is a constant problem at the run and now that the park has no lights at night it is unusable for dogs that have problems with other dogs. Have you noticed the park security hovering around the run to "lock it down" at sundown? I've been using the park since it's opening. Getting the small run which was fought for took years… Dog owners have had enough with the trusts anti-dog position It has been very clear from the begining…

    We need more space! Would you please get off your butts and serve the community properly…

    Barrry Weiser
    West 11th St.

  3. R. Robert Fallowes

    Would those who feel the dog run is not up to their expectations be willing to pay a usage fee to make it so?

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