Funding, Location Issues Jeopardize Proposal
By Conor Greene
The controversial push for a dog run in Juniper Valley Park reared its head once again, as supporters of the plan accused community board members of purposely stalling the ef- fort in hopes of preventing the proposal from becoming reality.
Last week’s Community Board 5 meeting began as many have over the past year – with members of the Juniper Valley Park Dog Owners Association requesting that a permanent enclosed dog run be created in the area currently used during off-leash hours. The proposal has been met with backlash from some residents who don’t want space in the park dedicated for a dog run, and a recent study by the city Parks Department estimated the project would cost $750,000.
The mood of last week’s meeting took a contentious turn when association member Kate Burns said she believes “some members of this [CB 5 subcommittee] may be working against the best interests of dog owners.” She said she was invited to join the subcommittee, which was recently formed to explore the idea, but was told “in no uncertain terms that we will never, never get a dog run” in Juniper Valley Park.
Burns added that the co-chair of the committee [Kathy Masi], told her that pushing the idea would result in a “ten year pissing match” with members of the Juniper Park Civic Association, which opposes the plan.
Several other Dog Owners Association members spoke in favor of the proposal, including 18-year-old Tom Scotti, who spoke against board members who are “determined to make sure our dream of having a dog run in Juniper Valley Park will never happen.” He said he grew up near the park, plans to spend his adult life in Middle Village and vowed to continue the fight until the dog run is built.
Joe Pisano, president of the dog association, expressed frustration that after attending CB 5 meetings for 12 consecutive months, little progress has been made. “Unfortunately, I don’t think we are any closer than we were a year ago,” he lamented, adding that he was also told to “forget the idea” because there will never be a dog run in Juniper Valley Park.
“And you wonder why we get so frustrated over this,” continued Pisano. “I really feel this is ridiculous. We really feel like you care less and put us off until we go away. We’re not going away.” He added that board members should “check the personal feelings at the door” and act on the behalf of the community at large.
Finally, John Rowan, who is a former district manager of Community Board 4 and a 22-year Middle Village resident, questioned the process by which the board has handled the group’s request. “I’m concerned about where we’re heading with the park,” he said, questioning why the subcommittee has yet to meet on the issue and why the board’s budget request simply mentioned a dog run within CB 5’s confines. “We don’t want it in CB 5 anywhere, we want Juniper Park,” he said.
Later in the meeting, board District Manager Gary Giordano seemed to pour cold water on the association’s request. He called the group’s initial proposal “huge” and said it would have been as large as a football field. “I honestly was shocked at the magnitude of that,” he said, adding that in his view, there doesn’t seem to be “much interest” in the run outside of the association members.“Maybe something can be worked out, but I’ve got to tell you, I don’t think there is much of a constituency among members of this board for a permanent, all-day run” at that location.
Masi was not at this month’s CB 5 meeting, but later told The Forum that she has been actively working on this issue and denied telling association members in no uncertain terms that it will never happen. However, she suggested that their stance that the run must be located in Juniper Valley Park might lead to an impasse, and said she felt it was best to wait until after the November 3 election before formally moving forward on the issue.
Next month, Masi is scheduled to visit two properties outside Juniper Valley Park that Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley’s office has identified as potential sites for a dog run. She said that association members need to think “a little more globally about this” and keep an open mind about the location.
“In a fiscal crisis, spending all that money is ludicrous and I don’t think anyone in their right mind would put up $750,000 for a dog run,” said Masi. “We want to get this done, but we don’t want to put a dog run in an area where the community won’t be happy about it. I don’t want to please fifty two and offend five thousand... I don’t see huge support from the community for a dog run anywhere.”
Masi noted that while funding for a dog run was included in the board’s capital budget requests, it ranked dead last after members prioritized each item. “If that doesn’t send a message... To dig their heels in the ground and say they only want it in Juniper, if that’s the message, my response is we’re all wast- ing their time. I don’t want to fight with these people, but they have to be a little more global.”