As I stated in my article on unleashed dogs in the September 2004 Juniper Berry we are not yet rid of the insanity and absurdity that has ruled the NYC Dept. of Parks for over a decade. We continue to be disappointed to see how the infliction, in the person of current Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, may have indeed been too widespread and entrenched to be cured.

Despite the fact that I cited many reasons in my article why the practice of allowing dogs to go unleashed is very dangerous the problem persists, as volatile as ever and this past summer actually went from bad to worse with a vicious dog attack and several frightening intimidations.

Unbelievably, current Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe continues promoting the “relaxation” (his word) of the dog leash laws despite the fact that the New York City Law (Health Code 161.05) states: “A person who owns, possesses, or controls a dog shall not permit it to be in any public place or in any open or unfenced area abutting on a public place unless the dog is effectively restrained by a leash or chain not more than six feet long. Failure to comply with the law shall be punishable by a fine of up to $500.00.”

Commissioner Benepe, like his predecessor, the eccentric Henry Stern, reasoned that having dogs off the leash before 9:00 A.M. is safe in ALL NYC parks, particularly since there are no Parks Enforcement Patrols (PEP) operating before 9 A.M. to enforce leash laws. Somehow Stern, and now Benepe, really believe that dogs make parks safer. For whom? What about the 9PM curfew that is in place in most NYC parks, is that edict also “relaxed” for dog owners?

Now for the good one, after 9:00 A.M., it is not safe, dogs must be leashed, figure that one out! What is considered safe at 8:59 A.M. is dangerous at 9:01A.M, but wait there’s more.

Unanimous votes from Community Board #5 and the Juniper Park Civic Association against this foolish and dangerous practice doesn’t seem to sway the Parks Commissioner. Increased dog attacks also do not sway Benepe… who is committed to stay the course no matter what. The public be damned! Parks must continue the legacy. They will not be swayed by logic or even common sense.

Both the JPCA and Community Board cite that a tragedy is waiting to happen if this practice continues, particularly since school children walk through the park on their way to school before 9 A.M.

We ask… “Who is in charge of enforcing the law in the City of New York?” Can Adrian Benepe or any Commissioner recklessly “relax˘ or abandon an existing law? If Adrian Benepe would bother to research this reckless edict he would have seen the dangers of his careless act. Thirty percent (30%) of deaths from dog bites result from dogs that were owned and permitted to roam free off the dog owner's property. The Humane Society of the United States states that many of these deaths might have been prevented through more stringent animal control laws and enforcement of those laws.

Here's another act playing in Parks Absurdity Theater.. If you want the leash law enforced, well you have to pay a price. The Parks Department doesn't enforce laws for nothing. Benepe feels that you have to build a dog run. If you build it they will use it and all will be good. Does he realize the capital funding needed for this endeavor? Does he realize the amount of precious park space needed for a dog run? Does he understand the many problems with dog runs? To put it in a nutshell, larger dogs rule and medium to smaller sized dogs do not even venture near many of the runs that have been built. There is evidence to support this statement. Also, many dog owners are not the most cooperative team players and owners fight just as much as the dogs.

Why are we even talking about all this? Think about it, if any city agency could just state, well, from 2AM to 6AM (because there may not be enough cops to go around), you can steal any car you want.We are relaxing the grand larceny auto laws for that period.Want to mug someone – well from 9PM to 9AM we’re relaxing the law and you can have your way with anyone’s money. This is the what I call, the Theater of the Absurd, and thanks to Commissioner Adrian Benepe, this is the show we are seeing in our NYC parks.

My article in the September 2004 Juniper Berry told the story of Tatiana Grant who was viciously bitten by a dog while roller blading in Juniper Valley Park.Tatiana has talked to her lawyer and legal action will be filed against the City of New York. You, the taxpayer, will pay
for any cash settlement with this woman. The nonsense has to stop.We the public are not being well served by any city agency, which we fund with our precious tax dollars, that just unilaterally decides what laws they want enforced and at what particular time.

Indeed the absurd bureaucracy inside the NYC Department of Parks goes well beyond this issue. But this issue is way beyond common sense. We will not wait for a tragedy and we should not have to walk, run or even skate in fear while using our parks because of someone sitting in Manhattan who is either too afraid or too inflicted to make the right decision.

The Juniper Park Civic Association is staying with this problem because it is the right thing to do.We can’t live in a society where a Commissioner in some city agency compromises our safety based on his own personal feelings about an issue. The Juniper Park Civic Association is the voice of 1600 families in Middle Village and Maspeth and we wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t keep this very volatile issue on the front burner.

We are all at the mercy of the unleashed dogs.We should not have to worry if a dog is in a good enough mood to not attack us when we use Juniper Valley Park.