Volume 77 / Number 35 Jan. 30 - Feb. 05, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Villager photo by Shoshanna Bettencourt

Above, a dog walker passed by Seravalli Playground on Monday, where a “No Dogs Allowed” sign was clearly posted. Below, a schematic rendering of the planned redesign for the playground.

Dogfight over Seravalli run ends with antis on top

By Lincoln Anderson

A redesign for Seravalli Playground in the West Village was approved by Community Board 2 last week — and it does not include a dog run.

The issue of whether to include a dog run in the renovated playground was the subject of intense community debate. But, in the end, C.B. 2’s Parks Committee decided that having a dog run in a playground, in the middle of a residential neighborhood to boot, posed difficulties.

Yet, the Parks Committee’s resolution, which was approved by C.B. 2’s full board last Thursday, raises the idea that the large asphalt play space of Seravalli Playground — at Hudson, Gansevoort and Horatio Sts. — could be used during the early morning and nighttime for letting dogs off leash.

The playground, named after Corporal John A. Seravalli, a Village native who died in Vietnam, recently has been temporarily partially commandeered for a project to drill a water shaft to the new Third City Water Tunnel, 600 feet below.

The redesign features a reduction of the large asphalt space, transforming it into a football shape, with a new garden and seating area added at the playground’s northwest corner. The existing children’s playground in the southeast corner will be renovated. There will be three basketball half courts and one full court. The large blacktop play space will be available for unprogrammed uses, for anything from pickup football and soccer games to roller-skating or learning how to ride a bike.

Tobi Bergman, the Parks Committee’s chairperson, said the committee liked the general design, but called for one major change: They feel the blacktop oval should be shifted a bit to the west so that a low fence — currently planned as 4 feet tall — separating it from the children’s playground can be made taller. With the shift, the fence’s height would no longer be constrained by the overhang of existing trees. A higher fence here is needed to protect the children from balls flying from the sports area and to keep children from climbing onto the blacktop, Bergman said.

At C.B. 2’s full board meeting, before the vote on the issue, outspoken opponents of the dog run, Dr. Alice and Cas Stachelberg, a couple living near the playground, reiterated their opposition, stating a dog run would be a nightmare for playground users and residents alike, and thanked the board in advance for its vote.

“Seven hundred people have signed petitions saying they’re glad it doesn’t include a dog run,” Alice Stachelberg said. “It took me less than two weeks to gather signatures from our schools and our neighbors and businesses right around us,” she added. “I didn’t have to veer off to France and Italy as the dog run people did — as you’ll see from their petition.”

However, she took exception to the part of the board’s resolution that recommended possibly allowing the playground to be used off hours for letting dogs run loose.

“Before 9 a.m. and after 9 p.m. — that’s when neighbors like to sleep,” she noted, saying they fear the dogs’ noisy barking.

Assemblymember Deborah Glick, meanwhile, wrote an open letter expressing support for the dog run proposal and concern over the Parks Department’s refusal to include one at Seravalli. Glick’s letter stated her hope that the community board would include at least “a small amount of space for dog owners.”

Glick added that she was “personally shocked and disturbed” that Parks refused to meet with advocates for a Seravalli Playground dog run.

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