Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski and I attended Benepe's announcement about the City's new sidewalk repair program for homeowners with sidewalks damaged by tree roots just about a year ago, on March 31, 2005. The press conference was in front of a Middle Village home a few blocks from Juniper Valley Park. I got Benepe to come over to Juniper to look at a possible dog run site on Lutheran Avenue on either side of the grandstand for the soccer field/running track. Both Benepe and Lewandowski agreed that the space would work and that it would be built there on a trial basis.
I felt that this was an ideal location as it is across the street from railroad tracks and not houses, thereby reducing the level of barking noise. It also would not affect many trees. Commissioner Benepe agreed that it was a "perfect" location and even stated, "There are dog runs like this all over the city."
While I was then and still am skeptical that a dog run would be maintained by those using it, I attempted to cooperate with the Parks Department by choosing locations that would have a minimal impact on other park users. The location that the off-leash contingent currently uses is not appropriate for several reasons:
1) There are many mature trees in the area that will be damaged and killed by the concentration of dog waste.
2) This is located in the most heavily traveled part of the park ‒ there are paths here which residents use to traverse the park from north to south and vice versa.
3) This is an area used by many for passive recreation. Many people read, picnic, walk and relax here during the day.
[Unfortunately, Councilman Dennis Gallagher arrived toward the end of our meeting and went ballistic. He said that he would not be in favor of a dog run anywhere in Juniper Valley Park. He actually got into an argument with Benepe over it.]
Months after my meeting with the commissioners, however, Lewandowski met with four dog owners in the parks maintenance house at 71st street and Lutheran Avenue and they said they did not want the dog run there. Some insisted that any dog run be in the middle of the park, where the majority of owners run their dogs off the leash now. And others wanted off-leash hours instead of a dog run because they felt it gave the dogs more freedom and because dog runs are "dirty."
JPCA will not support a dog run between the upper and lower ball fields. We have tried to cooperate with park officials and those who use the park for off-leash activity to come up with a reasonable compromise, but these efforts have been futile because of lack of cooperation on the part of the off-leashers. We therefore may be left with no choice but to bring a lawsuit against the City to eliminate off-leash activity.