Volume 78 / Number 8 - July 23 - 29, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since

Dog owners are salivating over new Tompkins Sq. run

By Gabriel Zucker

“This isn’t just a silly dog park opening,” said Garrett Rosso, a leading local dog advocate, as he surveyed the new Tompkins Square Dog Run last week in anticipation of its Friday opening. “It’s really a new thing.”

After six years of planning, followed by nine months of construction, the dog run has dog advocates across the country licking their chops in anticipation. Specifically, the run features a state-of-the-art surface. Using several layers of rock, landscaping fabric and a new top surface called Plymouth Brown Screenings, the surface will allow dog urine and rainwater to drain directly through the run, meaning it won’t emit unpleasant odors. In addition, the organizers may eventually add zeolite, a lava mineral that deodorizes urine by breaking down the ammonia in it.

“It’s going to be the standard for all New York City dog parks,” boasted Rosso, noting that Washington Square will be the next park to receive this treatment.

The dog-run construction revolution will likely extend beyond New York as well.

“People are calling me from all over the country,” he said, mentioning he had spoken to representatives from Philadelphia and Boston that day. “We invented this,” he said proudly.

The invention was a long process — a five-year process, in fact.

“I said, ‘I think we should go out, investigate dog runs all over the country, see what’s going on, see how they’re building them,’” Rosso recalled telling Elaine Crowley, the East Village’s former Parks Department district manager, in 2002. “And she said let’s do it.”

After traveling to Pennsylvania and California, visiting half a dozen quarries, and testing many new materials, they found the answer.

“It doesn’t sound very sexy, but that’s about four-and-a-half years of research,” said Rosso. Rosso commended the city on its commitment to canines, remembering what he heard when he started the process.

Rosso also thought the city has been revolutionary in its process; the dog run was realized entirely through the initiative and plans of the local Tompkins Square dog group, Friends of First Run.

“This is kind of like [Parks Commissioner] Adrian Benepe’s vision,” said Rosso. “When he took over, his plan was that we can’t improve our parks if we just administrate from the top down. We need grassroots groups coming in, bringing responsibility to the parks and building from the bottom up.

“So this is like one of the biggest projects that ever happened with that kind of grassroots plan,” he said.

Local dog owners indeed say they feel like part of the project.

“There is a lot of hype because it’s a long time in coming,” said Greg Komar, who was letting his dog exercise at a small interim dog run in Tompkins Square last week. “I’ve been part of the project for the last eight years,” he noted.

The new technology involved is also creating some excitement.

“If dogs come in and there’s water leftover, waste leftover, dogs can get sick from that,” said dog owner Drew Childers. “There’s apparently going to be a drainage system and that will really help.

“I can’t wait,” he said. “I wish it would open tomorrow.”

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