Friday, October 25, 2019

RIOC Announces Plan For New Roosevelt Island Blackwell Park Dog Run, Will It Be Named For Petey? - Some Parents Petition To Oppose Blackwell Park Location For Safety Concerns Saying Dog Run Is Too Close To Kids Playground

The existing Roosevelt Island Southtown Dog run will soon be removed for the construction of Hudson Related's Riverwalk Building 9.  The Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) plans a new replacement dog run to be located in Blackwell Park and opening before the current one is removed this winter.

The original location for the Blackwell Park Dog Run was a spot adjacent to Rivewalk 480 Main Street close to the East Waterfront  Promenade. However,  RIOC announced during its October 17 Board Meeting plans for a new Blackwell Park Dog Run location next to Roosevelt Landings 510 Main Street, a bit further north and again close to the East River Waterfront Promenade in the area surrounding the current sandbox

shown in this video.

During the October 17 RIOC Board Meeting Public Session, former resident and always Roosevelt Island Dog Advocate Scott Piro, together with other Roosevelt Island dog owners and caregivers,

requested that the new Blackwell Park Dog Run be named for his dog Petey. According to Mr. Piro:
... I'd like to introduce you Petey,  He is a 10 year old Lab mix. He's also an immigrant, he was rescued from a Tel Aviv kill shelter and immigrated to New York when he was five. He was an Island resident in 2015 until earlier this year. We are requesting that the new Dog Run  be named after him - Petey's Dog Run.

The reason why is because I did more community service for the dog population on the island than anyone else I think ever. Now, I didn't do it alone. Mary Cuneen, Steve Noone, Fernando Vargas and there were other people at RIOC who helped me and I had a lot of help in the community some people who are here right now...

Following Mr. Piro's presentation, Roosevelt Island parent Rachel Dowling spoke expressing opposition to the Blackwell Park Dog Run location for safety reasons being so close to areas where children play.

According to an October 18 statement from Ms Dowling:
Once again the community is being blindsided by dog park construction plan that has not been vetted with Roosevelt Island Residents.

After an outcry from local parents about a half-baked plan to place the dog run on a slice of Blackwell Park that abuts the sprinklers and the small children’s playground, Hudson-Related and RIOC has agreed to locate the new dog run closer to the site of where it currently sits.

But somewhere along the line Hudson-Related reneged on that agreement and convinced RIOC to give up some of their land in the northeast corner of Blackwell Park, squeezing a dog park plan in an already congested area abutting the big kids playground, the basketball courts, and the pending bike path.

Last night the RIOC board voted unanimously to push this plan through without any bid from contractors, stating that a vote when they next convene in early December would be too late to complete the work in time for the closure of the current Southtown dog park for the construction of another building.

This is an obvious move to strong arm the community into a plan we don’t agree with or feel comfortable with.

We are concerned about the obvious safety issues posed by a dog park at the children’s playground. Active children and dogs don’t always mix. As an example, my ten year old son had a terrifying experience last month at Riverwalk Commons when a dog got off his least and aggressively went after my son. While we were able to distract the dog before he could bite my son, my son was deeply traumatized by this experience. These are not events that we as a community should be inviting. Children have a right to play without fear.

Furthermore, the current plan essentially pens in the whole north end of the park, from the north basketball court to the children’s playground, cutting it off from the promenade, the trees, and the view of the water. It would create a drastic change to a space that is used by many members of the community.

We demand that RIOC suspend this plan and come up with something better. An interim dog park could easily replace the current park while plans are vetted and finalized in a way that takes the needs of the whole community to heart.
A petition drive has been started to oppose a Dog Run in Blackwell Park:

To be delivered to Susan Rosenthal , President of RIOC

We are concerned community members worried about the location for the new dog run next to the basketball courts and the big kids playground (and soon the bike path) at Blackwell Park. We are concerned about safety as well as the loss of open space. We feel that since so much space is being lost due to HR construction the dog park should be placed down there, where it won’t impede the passive enjoyment of the park, kids at play, and where it also is more likely to be maintained.
To date, there are 50 petition signers.

Roosevelt Island Mom and Dog owner Patty Fallone replied to Ms Dowling during the RIOC Board Public Session:
... I think the dog run can co-exist close to the playground as long as it is done properly.

In response to the Blackwell Park Dog Run opposition, Mr Piro writes:
I scouted the entire southern residential section of the Island in 2017 – and identified a dozen potential locations for a new dog run from which RIOC could choose. More than 50 members of the Island’s most active dog owners voted upon these selections and chose the triangular patch adjacent to 480 Main Street.

The dog community is happy with the current location and design of ‘Petey’s Dog Run,’ but some of us did feel the original spot was superior. Chief among its advantages are that it is flat, shaded and isolated. It’s inaccurate to describe it as ‘abutting’ the small children’s playground, as a recent WIRE story did. There is a paved path dividing the two spots – and at least 10 feet separate the two plots.

Planners of urban parks across the city see no hazards in placing dog runs and children’s playgrounds adjacent one another, as evidenced by existing multi-use parks in Carl Schurz Park (UES) and Riverside Park (UWS). St. Nicholas Park near Harlem positioned the dog run adjacent the barbeque area, and Cooper Park in Brooklyn places dog runs next to multiple sports fields.

There is nothing inherently unsafe about locating a dog run next to a children’s play area. The counterargument may be loud, but it is not rational.
and Roosevelt Island resident Sabrina Hermosilla adds:
I’ve been on the Island since 2006 and am a proud responsible human and animal parent.

As with all experiments in multiculturalism, Roosevelt Island residents often finds ourselves tasked with balancing the various and different needs of many different and equally important groups.

What brought my husband and I to this haven over 13 years ago was this desire to co-exist, this belief that we are better together, and that our unique needs and differences is what makes life here rich and rewarding. Over the past 13 years we have been fortunate to host all of our 11 nieces and nephews and have loved how welcoming this island is to children and families from all walks of life. No place is perfect, but we always felt safe playing with these children outside and showing to them how beautiful diversity can be.

Nine years ago we decided to add a dog to our family and the island truly came alive for us. We had already been on the Island for almost four years, but when we brought Tallula into our lives we met neighbors, people stopped (and stop) us on the street to see her, and we were able to volunteer at the hospital so Tallula could bring her joy to those who needed it most.

What surprised us the most was that while some people have a fear of dogs (which we obviously would avoid) the large majority of people, every age, every language, every social or economic status, were drawn to and loved to get some Tallula love. Having a dog not only helped us join our community and know neighbors (we still meet people who know Tallula whom we have never met!) but I truly believe offered a community good, she makes people smile.

Two years ago we were blessed with a human child of our own. Watching him grow up in a household with animals and learn to respect, show compassion, and responsibility, is truly one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Animals and children have co-existed in harmony since our earliest times on this Earth, and offer such a rich opportunity for joint growth and enrichment.

Recently, I have been saddened to hear that a small, but vocal, group is using the long-overdue relocation of a dog park to stoke fears of disease, contagion, and violence between dogs and children. There are irresponsible dog parents / guardians who do not pick up their dog’s waste, true. Just as there are irresponsible human parents / guardians who do not manage their children sufficiently, allow them to litter food, plastic, balloons, etc.

However, we on this Island do not make policy, the few times RIOC allows us to have a say, we do not make policy from a position of fear or of the small minority of offenders. No, instead, I hope, we come together as a community that understands there are unique needs, that most children and dogs are well behaved and well cared for, and that both human and dog children deserve space on this ever-growing Island. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of examples of dog parks and children’s parks being co-located, please, Roosevelt Island, let us not fall into the bitter, divisive discourse of these times, but instead find our shared community, and allow the dog park relocation to continue as planned.
I asked RIOC:
... Is RIOC reconsidering placing the dog run in Blackwell Park?
A RIOC Spokesperson replied October 23:
The safety of our residents and park users is always our main objective. We believe the planned improvements for the entire park is a thoughtful, safe design for all user groups and will address the concerns about the location of the dog park voiced at the Board meeting and in the referenced petition.

As indicated in our presentation during the Board meeting, this project is being bid for construction in two phases. The dog park is included in the first phase of work. The second phase includes improvements of the basketball courts, play areas and paths. The second phase is in design now and will be issued for contractor pricing next Spring.

The design for the entire park incorporates industry best practices for dog runs. The dog park is completely fenced and has a series of two self-closing gates to enter. The first gate allows dog users to enter the vestibule with their leased dog. The second gate allows users to enter the pen for either large or small dogs and take the dog off leash upon entering the pen. The pen will be well shaded and is located at the perimeter of the park. There is dense planting outside the fence to provide a visual barrier between dogs and other park users.

All of these elements combined provide a safe experience for children using the park, large dog owners, small dog owners and residents enjoying a walk along the promenade. We realize that design, like art, is subject to personal taste but we try to put forth solutions that appeal to most.

In response to concerns voiced at the Board meeting, we’ve taken another look at the plan and decided to eliminate the vestibule entrance from the park. A revised plan with a single point of access to the vestibule from the promenade will be provided to the contractors. We feel once all of the planned improvements are complete, all of the user groups will be able to safely coexist in Blackwell Park.
RIOC Assistant VP Of Capital Planning & Projects Jonna Carmona-Graf reported to the RIOC Board of Directors and RIOC President Susan Rosenthal during the October 17 Board meeting on plans for the Blackwell Park (Part 1)

renovations and specifically the

Dog Run location (Part 2).