By Bill Parry
Astoria residents will be able to tell the city Parks Department what they want see in the neighborhood’s first official dog run, which will be built under the RFK Bridge at Hoyt Avenue North between 23rd and 24th streets. The public is invited to attend a visioning session at Bohemian Hall, located at 29-19 24th Ave., Jan. 6 at 7 p.m.
The $1 million dollar project is the result of City Councilman Costa Constantinides’ (D-Astoria) latest round of Participatory Budgeting, where his constituents chose which projects would be paid for with his discretionary funds. Constantinides allocated $500,000 towards the project, which was matched by Borough President Melinda Katz along with some additional funding from state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria).
“This scoping meeting will bring the community together to discuss the design of Triboro Lot C, including the dog run and adjoining basketball court,” Constantinides said. “We encourage everyone who has suggestions about how they envision the site to attend and give feedback. I look forward to working with the Parks Department and the community as this process moves forward.”
Some of the topics that will be considered during the visioning session include the separation of big and small dogs, where to place the water sources and what type of fencing should be used. Once the design is agreed upon, Constantinides said, the construction of the dog run will be completed in two years.
Once built, Community Board 1, the Astoria Dog Owners Association and the Old Astoria Neighborhood Association will be in charge of the park’s upkeep.
“Currently, the best options have been the street or Astoria Park during off-leash hours,” Old Astoria Neighborhood Association President Richard Khuzami said. “There’s also Bugsy’s Dog Run next to the park. George ‘Tex’ Cruikshank has done a great job maintaining it for more than 20 years, but physical deterioration has it falling into the river.”
Bugsy’s Dog Run was also prone to flooding and noise complaints from nearby homeowners.
“It’s also in the way of the future waterfront promenade the city is planning to go with all the development on Hallets Peninsula,” Khuzami said. “If the new dog run had been placed in Astoria Park, we would have lost the off-leash hours and a good many park-goers prefer that. That’s why we favored this new location.”
Khuzami is urging his members to attend the visioning session and contribute their ideas.
“Scoping meetings allow us to get direct input from park users on how to design a space that will meet their needs,” Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski said. “We look forward to hosting this meeting with Council member Constantinides and we are hoping for a large turnout.”
Astoria has one of the highest pet populations in the borough, along with Middle Village, according to a 2012 study by the New York City Economic Development Corp.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr