By Jeremy Walsh
Dog owners calling for a dog run to be built in Juniper Valley Park are calling up old rivalries, but this time around it appears to be more amicable than the battle three years ago that ended with a rejected lawsuit.
Led by dog owner Joseph Pisano, dog run advocates have been appearing at Community Board 5 meetings since November. Current city regulations allow for dogs to be off leashes in parks without dog runs between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m., but Juniper Park, which closes at night, only allows unleashed dogs between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m.
“All we want is a fence and I feel it will be better for everyone,” Pisano said at the CB 5 meeting earlier this month. “Why don’t we try something different? Let’s fence it in and see how it goes.”
He was joined by several other neighbors who complained of having to keep late hours in order to give their dogs a chance to play and by leaders of the Kâˆ’9 Corral in nearby Forest Park, who offered their help.
The dog park plan was previously floated in March 2006 during a bitter fight between dog owners, CB 5 and the Juniper Park Civic Association over the city Parks Department’s plan to allow dogs off leashes during nighttime hours in parks without dog runs. The civic opposed the dog run plan at that point due to safety concerns and sued the Parks Department for relaxing the leash laws.
The State Supreme Court ruled against the Juniper Park civic later that year, and the dog run plan was dropped in favor of the looser leash laws.
The plan Pisano put forward after the last CB 5 meeting asked for a fence to be built around the open areas between the ballfields at Juniper Boulevard North and 76th Street. It met with measured skepticism from CB 5 District Manager Gary Giordano and Robert Holden, president of the Juniper Park civic.
“We are scheduled to have a Parks Committee meeting at Juniper Valley Park Monday, April 20, where we’ll begin to work on this a little more,” Giordano said, noting there are people who oppose the dog run plan. “One concern that I have is that if something is established there for more hours, the current location is very near the baseball fields. And I would be concerned about children using the fields and the dogs going to the dog run at the same time.”
Holden said he and the civic are open to the idea of a dog run, but suggested an alternate location between the hockey rink and the track where there are no trees to be affected.
“There are 30 trees, many of them mature, in that area that would be enclosed in this dog run,” he said. “What does dog urine do? It kills trees. There’s no question that it is harmful to trees. So why would the Parks Department or anybody that understands this even propose that you put dogs in an area like that?”
Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski confirmed that Holden had proposed an alternate site and called the revival of the dog run “interesting.”
“I’m glad that all three entities are speaking,” she said. “We support dog runs in general. We find them to be very positive for communities and for parks. In this case, we would really like the community to come a consensus.”
The cost of dog parks can vary from several hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars, Lewandowski said.
“You could just put up a fence and a couple of gates and call it a dog run or say the sky’s the limit,” she said, noting the price tag of one new dog run under construction in Little Bay is nearly $500,000.
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by eâˆ’mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718âˆ’229âˆ’0300, Ext. 154.