Volume 74, Number 25 | Octuber 20 - 26 , 2004

Village dogs need another place to, well, just be dogs

By Divya Watal

Village dog owners have been demanding a new, larger dog run for many years now, but something has changed in recent months — there has been an influx of new residents in the area and consequently new dogs, and there just isn’t enough space for them to hang out, complain irate dog owners.

“There’s nowhere for the city dog to be a dog,” said Lynn Pacifico, president of the Dog Owners Action Committee for the West Village, Soho and Hudson Sq. “The run is the only legal area for a dog to be off-leash.”

Now, with a swarm of new tenants, Pacifico added, one in eight Village residents owns a dog. Almost everyone in the vicinity, whether they own large dogs or small, takes their pets to the only existing nonmembership run — the Leroy St. run in Hudson River Park.

Although Washington Sq. Park, in addition to its long-established dog run, recently got a new run for small dogs, the Leroy St. run throws all sizes in together, a recipe for problems, according to Pacifico.

“Small dogs and big dogs don’t belong together,” said Pacifico. This intermingling, she added, has resulted in severe injuries to small Village dogs.

Roberta Golubock, for instance, had a terrifying experience with her 8 ?-pound Yorkshire terrier, Lili, this summer. Lili was playing with her regular friends and some newly acquired ones at the run, when a young pit bull mix ferociously attacked her.

“Lili was grabbed by her right hind leg and neither the owner’s command nor the five of us surrounding the dogs could easily get the dog to release Lili,” said Golubock. “Lili’s shrieks were heartbreaking.”

DOAC presented a proposal for a new dog run, exclusively for bigger dogs, at the Community Board 2 Waterfront Committee meeting on Oct. 4. The proposal, which had the support of 350 new Village residents, according to Pacifico, asked for permission to use the area between the bikeway and the north end of Pier 40 as a temporary run.

“There’s nothing happening there — it’s completely vacant,” said Pacifico, adding the run can be quickly set up without cost by moving existing Jersey barriers. The new location by Pier 40, she said, could easily accommodate a dog run of 10,000 sq. ft., which, in the dog owners’ opinion, is the minimum space requirement.

Concerned pet owners at the C.B. 2 Waterfront Committee meeting proposed to “leave the existing run as it is, to be used as a separate section for dogs under 40 pounds, with a section inside the existing run for toy breeds and dogs under 20 pounds.”

The temporary dog run, just south of the existing run, would be for the larger hounds that mean well but often intimidate and injure their smaller playmates. “The facility will last until a permanent space, not less than 10,000-sq.-ft. is provided,” the proposal stipulates.

Pacifico stressed the importance of taking dogs to runs, saying, “Dogs have to be socialized, otherwise it creates an intolerable situation. It makes our quality of life worse — not just for dog owners but for people walking on sidewalks.”

A dog that isn’t exercised, she explained, is likely to become belligerent, attacking neighbors and disturbing them by barking. So, it’s a situation that affects everyone.

“The Waterfront Committee is 100 percent behind us, but the Trust doesn’t want to change,” said Pacifico. “Connie Fishman [president of the Hudson River Park Trust] is afraid to let us in — she’s afraid we may not leave.

“If you [the Trust] show us plans for the new run, we’ll leave in good faith,” she added.

Dog owners don’t just want a new, more spacious run, they say, they want to participate in the design and decision-making process as well. They believe that if they had been consulted before the Trust built the existing run, most dog injuries that have occurred there could have been avoided.

But Don MacPherson, the Waterfront Committee chairperson, thinks the Trust and particularly Fishman have been quite responsive to the recommendations of concerned dog owners. They recently carried out improvements to the Hudson River Park dog run, which even Lynn Pacifico would applaud, said MacPherson.

Pacifico admitted the new improvements — a taller fence, removal of the circular bench in the middle and addition of shade umbrellas — were welcome, though it would have been nice to have the umbrellas in the summer when they were most needed.

The Hudson River Park Trust says it is willing to hear the dog owners’ concerns and evaluate their proposal. However, the Trust says it cannot relinquish the space in front of Pier 40 for the creation of another dog run.

“There’s no vacant space,” said Chris Martin, the Trust’s spokesperson, contradicting Pacifico’s claim.

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