Volume 73, Number 47 | March 24 -30, 2004

Could a co-op with a dog ban have a dog run?

By Deborah Lynn Bloomberg

The Seward Park co-op’s board of directors is looking into the possibility of converting the vacant lot it owns along Seward Park on Hester St. into a useable site for the co-op’s trash compactors or a new dog run, among other options, a move that many shareholders strongly oppose.

The project would involve renovating the property at Hester and Essex Sts., which has sat vacant for the past 42 years. The board is currently looking into the various options, according to board member Mitchell Kupfer, to determine which are structurally feasible, given that the F train runs beneath the property.

“There’s nothing official yet,” said Kupfer, one of the 11 members of the board, which is elected by co-op members. “We want to improve the property and quality of life for residents of Seward Park [co-op], and are looking to see whether the things we want to do can be done.”

Plan opponents say that the installation of a dog run would go against the co-op’s current no-dog policy and would be “hypocritical.” Co-op bylaws forbid owning dogs, but the reality is a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, shareholder Linda Jones said. Others want no dogs in the building at all and said they bought an apartment in the co-op specifically to live without them.

“A foul-smelling dog run would go a long way to negate the recent improvements taking place south of Delancey,” said Jac Zagoory, 45, who with his wife has lived in the co-op for the past three years.

Dan Strum, who runs the Seward Park Buzz Web site, a place for shareholders to voice their opinions, said he thinks the source of shareholder frustrations comes from the fact that the property’s existence surfaced only in the context of potential plans for renovation. He is not opposed to the idea of a dog run, in theory. “A dog run might one day be worth considering if we were to first sort out our other dog-related baggage,” he said.

Others feel that trash dumpsters would be an eyesore on the disused segment of historic Hester St., in a neighborhood currently undergoing revitalization. Several buildings on Essex St. are currently under renovation. “We need to think about developing the neighborhood and beautifying it,” said Karen Skurka, a real estate agent who has lived in the building since February 2003. “By building a dog run or dumping ground on Hester, we are not sending the right message to our commercial tenants.”

The relocation of the co-op’s dumpster is needed, according to Kupfer, as the smell of trash and the noise of pickups at its current location, centrally located between the co-op’s buildings, is unpleasant for residents. The co-op’s management office plans to soon send residents a survey on potential bylaw changes, such as rules on dog ownership, according to Samuel Welsh, general manager of Seward Park Housing Corporation. The questionnaire will not ask for input on the Hester St. property, Kupfer said.

“[Residents] elect us to make decisions and that’s what we do,” Kupfer said. “We are deeply concerned, not about a personal agenda, but about everyone here.”

Because the board of directors has not yet consulted shareholders about potential changes on Hester St., Jones said, she has contacted the Parks Department and Community Board 3, asking them to oppose the possible dog run and trash dumpster relocation. “The board of directors is not required to tell us anything,” she said. “But it’s a good practice to tell your shareholders about things like this.”

And shareholders are full of suggestions. Some envision a miniature golf course or a community garden on the property. Others suggest that the board allow architects who live in the co-op to give the property a full review — several have volunteered to do so for free, Skurka said. Resident Rachel S. Fleishman, 38, also thinks a property review is the best solution. “What Seward Park needs is long-range planning by competent professionals,” she said.

The board plans to reach a decision on the Hester property once its research is complete, “in the very near future,” said Kupfer.

In the meantime, co-op resident Zagoory echoes the sentiments of many shareholders. “Our area is known as Co-op Village, and for it to be a true village we need to care and plan together to make this a thriving community.”


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