By Jeremy Walsh
A grassy knoll is the latest territory causing friction between the state Parks Department and Long Island City dog owners after the agency barred canines from the area in Gantry Plaza State Park. Dogs were also banned from the old piers when the rest of the new, six-acre grass area opened up in July.
Rachel Gordon, a state Parks regional director, said the manager of Gantry Plaza saw the grass at the “knoll,” a small strip of grass with a picnic table next to an athletic field, had been turned brown by the effects of dogs relieving themselves there. The ban went into effect last week.
Dog owners can still walk their dogs on the cement areas or in the community garden.
But dog owners in the Queens West towers have not taken the situation lying down. After they said parks employes shooed them off the wooden piers in July, they formed DOG LIC to push for more pooch-friendly facilities in the rapidly evolving neighborhood.
Nearly 300 people have joined the DOG LIC group on the social networking site Facebook and about 90 came to the group’s first meeting where they formed committees for political advocacy, planning and development.
“We’re just asking for the paths, we’re not asking for the grass,” DOG LIC member Stephanie Rodousakis said of the new park area. Her friend, Jessica Masters, said she has only been to the new park extension twice because dogs are not allowed there.
But the Parks Department said the ban reflects the impact dog waste can have on the grounds.
“To argue about are we changing the rules is not the point,” Gordon said, noting she herself is a dog owner. “If you see that an area is being ruined by dogs … you make it a dog-free zone.”
Gordon said dog waste deposited on the piers has been damaging the wood and the staff worried about the effects of owners simply pushing the feces into the East River instead of picking up the waste.
But the dogs have got to go somewhere, DOG LIC warns. The group conducted its own informal canine census in the cluster of luxury towers lining Long Island City’s waterfront. The results? At least 750 dogs in the five high-rise buildings in Queens West.
There are three dog runs in the Hunters Point area of Long Island City: one near the now-defunct Tennisport on the site of what will become the Hunters Point South Development; one on Vernon Boulevard between 48th and 49th avenues; and one on 31st Street. Masters said there are problems with each one.
The Hunters Point South dog run will eventually be incorporated into the site design, officials with the city Economic Development Corp. have said, but the existing run will be cut in half by a construction fence when work starts.
Masters called the Vernon Boulevard site “a mess,” noting the place does not have a double-gated entrance. “No grass, dirt, lots of mud.”
Masters also said the dog run on 31st Street has a large statue at the center that reduces the amount of open space dogs have to play. DOG LIC intends to help with the reconditioning of the Vernon Boulevard site, she said.
“We’re out for our dogs, obviously,” she said, “but we also want to make the community a nicer place.”
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.