Thursday, August 20, 2009

Committee Formed to Handle Dog Run Proposal

By Conor Greene

Residents frustrated that a proposal for a dog run in Juniper Valley Park has been placed on the backburner hope the plan will gain momentum now that the community board has formed a subcommittee to deal exclusively with the issue.

At its meeting last Wednesday, Community Board 5 members voted to create an offshoot of the Parks Committee to investigate a proposal the Juniper Valley Dog Park Association submitted to the board in May for a permanent, fenced-in area in the part of the Middle Village park now used for off-leash hours.

“It has occupied all of its time and I feel there are enough parks and parks issues in our community that warrant our attention,” said Kathy Masi, who proposed creating the subcommittee. “This can go around and around… At some point we have to address it.”

The board voted 39 to 2 in favor of the subcommittee, which is needed because the “issue of a dog run in Juniper Park has caused extreme tense relations within our community,” the resolution states. It suggests that steps be taken “in an effort to cohesively work towards a better relationship and understanding of the needs of all concerned…”

The subcommittee is being formed “in order to address the location of a future dog run” and will “consist of an equal representation of dog owners, homeowners and community board representatives.” The resolution also demands that any major changes regarding usage or construction at the park be brought before CB 5 “and that the concerns of the community board not be circumvented.”

The board’s vote to create the subcommittee was welcome news for JVDPA member Joe Pisano, who has attended CB 5 meetings over the past 10 months to speak in favor of a dog run. “I really don’t think this kind of thing should take this long,” he said. “They’re in every park in the city and I don’t see what is so different about Juniper. I don’t think it’s such a big deal. There are tons of dog owners around here.”

The resolution was included in a letter CB 5 sent to Borough Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski earlier this month. A Parks spokeswoman said the borough commissioner plans to meet with CB 5 officials next week to discuss the issue.

“The Parks Department has been working with community members, dog owners and other park users alike to address the needs of both groups,” the spokeswoman wrote in an e-mail to The Forum. “Parks is open to working with the community to meet the needs of its people and animal users alike.”

The JVDPA’s proposal is being reviewed by Parks’ capital team, which will submit its comments to Lewandowski in advance of next week’s meeting with CB 5, according to the spokeswoman. Parks said estimates on cost, size and other details have not yet been determined since the proposal is in a draft form. However, a rough sketch submitted to CB 5 shows a maximum length of 383 feet and a maximum width of 152 feet.

The board’s district manager, Gary Giordano, said the proposed size of the run might lead to objections. “It’s almost as big as a football field, so to me it’s shocking to ask for that much space for a dog run,” he said, adding that the board is in the process of forming the subcommittee.

The community board’s requests that it be alerted of any construction plans came after fencing was installed around the area used during off-leash hours, which run from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. Parks said the fence was installed “to address some park users’ concern about people using the paths during off-leash hours… It provides a border along an adjoining pathway so in morning hours when dogs are off-leash and pedestrians are using the paths [the groups can co-exist] without interfering with each other.”

Pisano hopes the new subcommittee will allow the dog group’s request to move forward. “There are certain people that are really against it, and unfortunately, those are the people I had to get the ok from,” said Pisano. “It sounded sincere that Kathy Masi wants to find a place where we can all use the park together. Hopefully nothing but good comes out of this, and I look forward to working with them.”

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