Dog Run Talks Begin With Cheers And Growls
Talks about where Rockaway's first dog run should be located got off to a bumpy start Wednesday night as about 60 people turned out to voice different opinions at the first public meeting held on the subject.
Two locations are in the running: One is between Beach 103 and 104 Streets on Shore Front Parkway, the other at Freeway Park, which is located east of Beach 84 Street. The Shore Front Parkway location appears to be the frontrunner, and that has some dog owners wagging their tails and other people growling.
City Councilman Joseph Addabbo Jr. told The Wave on Thursday, the day after the meeting, that the Shore Front Parkway location "seems to be the more appropriate site" and said Freeway Park "is just not that attractive." He said an upcoming event near the Shore Front Parkway site "may be a precursor to the dog park," which would begin on a 3-4 month trial basis. That may not sit well with several residents who voiced opposition to that location at the meeting.
Proponents of the Shore Front Parkway site say a dog run is a natural fit there because it's fenced in and has running water and benches. They say a minimal investment to add gates would breathe new life into the spot, a defunct shuffleboard court. Opponents say it's too close to other parks where young children play and it will draw increased vehicle traffic to Shore Front Parkway, where parking and traffic is already an issue. They also raised concerns about odor and dog barking.
Freeway Park offers several acres of space, is fenced in and is separated from the nearest residences by roads and the subway el. But opponents say there is nowhere to park cars, crossing the roadway there is dangerous and that the park is too isolated and too close to the Hammel Houses, where criminal activity is an issue. One Beach 72 Street resident described Freeway Park as "very, very desolate" and said she "would never walk there" from her home. A trash compactor has been approved for part of the site, which will bring truck traffic to that area.
Others, like 103-00 Shore Front Parkway resident Joe Hallstein, proposed different locations on Shore Front Parkway or along Beach Channel Drive in Belle Harbor. "We need a dog park desperately," he said. "I just want to be fair about this thing."
The meeting, which was held so that community members could voice their opinions, was called at the Beach Club by Addabbo, who exited after a brief introduction and handed the meeting over to Sara Skalet, a local dog owner and the niece of Addabbo staffer Sandee Doremus, who, he said, first approached him with the idea of a dog run. Although it was unusual for an elected official to cede the podium, Addabbo explained he had another speaking engagement. He later described Skalet as "a resident who cares about the community and thinks that this is a way to improve her community."
"I wish there were a thousand Sarahs," Addabbo remarked.
Skalet was joined by Jill Weber, Rockaway's administrator for the Department of Parks and Recreation and Mary McInerney, the president of a dog owner association that maintains a dog run in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. Skalet and Weber stressed that final determinations haven't been made. They said the next step would be the formation of a dog run committee, which will hold further meetings and investigate the other suggested sites before selecting a site and making a presentation to Community Board 14.
For more information on the dog run or the committee call Addabbo's office at (718) 318-6411.