By Ayala Ben-Yehuda
Neighbors living near John Golden Park in Bayside say the park is going to the dogs—literally.
About 20 local residents attended the April 2 meeting of the John Golden Park Block Association to tell Queens Parks Commissioner Richard Murphy that unleashed dogs and their unscrupulous owners were making the park dangerous for joggers, walkers and other everyday users.
“The problem is always there,” said Dr. Blanche Felton, the association’s president, who along with her neighbors complained that dog owners were not cleaning up after their pets, creating a health risk to children who used the befouled ballfields.
The 17-acre park at 215th Place and 32nd Avenue lies on the former estate of renowned Broadway producer John Golden, who bequeathed the land to the city upon his death in 1955.
Felton and neighbor Tim Vance took issue with the Parks Department’s extending dog owners the courtesy of letting their pets off leashes in the park after the 9 p.m. official closing time until 9 a.m. the next morning, long after morning exercisers needed to use the park.
“I won’t go there,” said Vance. “I’m sick of the dogs. It’s a 24-hour situation.”
Murphy suggested setting up a fenced-off dog run in the park on a trial basis, since attempting to change the citywide courtesy policy would take much longer and perhaps not succeed.
With a clearly marked-off area for dogs, it would be easier to issue summonses for owners who step out of the area, said Murphy, who added that Queens had only two dog runs in the entire borough.
The dog run idea was greeted with a cool response by the civic association.
“Once you encourage people to come in, it could get out of hand completely,” said Felton in a phone interview. “We have had people that have been attacked.”
She said later that Murphy had made a good-faith effort to address the association’s concerns by coming to meeting and she appreciated his work to improve the park.
Felton suggested a dog run should be set up instead along Little Bay, farther from residents’ homes.
City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said a similar request had come to him from a Whitestone resident but the person had never followed up with him.
Mike Agnello, the local Parks official in charge, said there were only eight enforcement officers in the entire borough to issue summonses for pet offenses, a number that will decrease further after Memorial Day when officers are redirected to beaches and pools.
In the meantime, Murphy suggested that association members write down the license plate numbers of repeat dog offenders so they could be targeted directly.
Other nuisances pointed out by neighbors were groups of young people drinking and smoking marijuana on park benches, problems that some contended had not been adequately addressed by police at the 111th Precinct.
Community Board 11 Chairman Jerry Iannece, who has advocated for more officers at the 111th, pointed out that the precinct was hard- pressed to respond to the park with sufficient manpower at all times.
Murphy said park employees had cleared vines and debris during the winter months to prepare John Golden Park for spring, projects he said would provide clearer sight lines to park workers and improve safety.
Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 1-718-229-0300, Ext. 146.