Crap! It Covers Rockaway
Locals are up to their ankles in something, and it’s not beach sand—it’s dog dung.
Rockaway’s RinTinTins and local Lassies leave droppings on the street, grass, boardwalk, and beach, and many say they are disgusted.
One outraged Belle Harbor resident, married to a prominent local restaurant owner, is so sick of the problem on their street that she posted signs "Attention Inconsiderates…" urging them to walk their dogs elsewhere.
"Call it the sh*t block," she said of the street where her children play. She said guests to her home who arrive after dark, constantly step from their cars into piles left by dogs.
Another Belle Harbor resident contacted The Wave to complain about a crappy situation on his block, but asked that his name and address be withheld, because he feared a war between neighbors would break out.
In New York City, and particularly in Queens, the crap situation appears to be a matter of lax enforcement. In 2002, Sanitation Department agents and the police department wrote a total of 516 summonses for pooper-scooper violations, according to Department of Sanitation Spokeswoman Kathy Dawkins. Less than 50 were issued in all of Queens County, she said.
"It’s a difficult law to enforce, because you have to catch them in the act," Dawkins told The Wave.
The peninsula-wide consensus is that if more owners would pick up, the problem would be minimized.
More than just an aesthetic problem, and a nightmare for shoes, dog feces can cause health problems in humans. The Association of Professional Animal Waste Specialists (APAWS) lists various worm diseases, and others that "can pose a serious health hazard," on their website. They also say children are most at risk, because they play in sand and dirt, and are more likely to put their hands in their mouths, or rub their eyes.
In New York, dogs must be licensed, be on a six-foot or shorter leash when in public, and their owners must pick up their waste, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
When people and their dogs are caught in a poop-and-run, fines range from $50 to $100, with repeat offenders paying the stiffer penalty, according to Dawkins, who said offenders need to "be civic minded."
Jonathan Gaska, District Manager of Community Board 14, said not picking up after your dog is "thoughtless and lewd." He said people should try to reach out to their non-poop-scooping neighbors. Gaska said he receives a lot of complaints from residents in the apartments along Shore Front Parkway.
The Wave has also received complaints regarding the Surfside and Dayton buildings. In a March letter to the editor, Barbara Buffolino urged all owners, specifically in that area, to "please be responsible and considerate and pick up after [their] dog." She also thanked those who already do.
But even those who pick up can cause another sanitary issue—depending on what they do with the feces. According to an Internet site that focuses on Belle Harbor, some residents toss "dogs dirt" into the sewer, where it can then flow directly into Jamaica Bay. The environmental pollution issue provoked a meeting between west-end residents and Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer.
One thing that could help with the pet waste problem, and the beach/ boardwalk regulations that have left some residents feeling fined, would be a special park for dogs.
"What we really need is a dog run…they have them in so many (other) places," said Veterinarian Jay Rogoff of the Animal Hospital of the Rockaways. Rogoff isn’t the only one that would like to see a park for dogs, he said many who visit his office express the same desire.
The good news for dog park proponents is that City Councilman Joseph Addabbo, Jr., said he will meet with City Parks and Recreation representatives to select a Shore Front Parkway site for one, as soon as next week.
"I think a dog run is great," said Addabbo, who is also chair of the City Council’s Parks and Recreation Committee. They are "quite inexpensive," because they require only some fencing and benches, Addabbo said.
After meeting with Parks to choose a site, and one or two alternates, the next step is to seek Community Board and resident feedback, Addabbo said.