Parks Commissioner Continues to Endanger Park Users
Mayor Asked to Step Into Controversy

The saga of the unleashed dogs is getting worse by the day. While the NYC Parks Department continues to downplay the problem with their ambiguous statements about “courtesy time” for unleashed dogs in the park and always making sure you “can control your dog,” etc., people are being harassed and frightened daily in Juniper Valley Park.

Before I get to the park situation, let me tell you about a dog attack that made the media just the other day. Phyllis Perillo, who lives in the vicinity of 79th Street and Grand Avenue in Elmhurst, was taking out her garbage when a pit bull bolted from a neighboring house, attacking her viciously on the face and legs. She was rescued by neighbors who successfully got the dog off of her. She was taken to the hospital with severe dog bites. This pit bull was depicted in the media as a loving “pet,” well cared for, even having an identity chip in its shoulder. It was also stated that there was no history of violent behavior by this dog. It was subsequently discovered that the attacking pit bull had indeed attacked and bitten another neighbor and that the previous attack was never reported to the authorities.

The point to be made is that this pit bull could very easily have been one of the “pet” dogs “romping in the baseball fields” in Juniper Valley Park in the early morning hours when people are jogging or walking and the kids are crossing the park to go to school. That is how dangerous it is for any dog to be off the leash in a public area. Dogs are animals and they are capable of attacking just because they’re having a “bad day.”

To reinforce the danger of loose dogs, the following dog incidents occurred recently in Juniper Valley Park. * “Gary,” a Middle Village resident, was escorting his two small children across the park in the early morning hours so they can attend Our Lady Of hope School. He asked the owners of the unleashed dogs to please put them on the leash because in addition to frightening Gary and his children, the dogs were circling around a woman with a baby carriage. One of these morons actually threatened to go after Gary with a baseball bat!

Another Middle Village resident, “Mary Ann,” was walking her young poodle on the leash when a pack of unleashed dogs approached her and her dog. She was frightened and her dog was petrified, but no one responded to her pleas of help by leashing or even offering to control their dogs. Both these incidents were reported to the police and NYC Parks Department. Mary Ann received the usual vacuous letter from the NYC Parks Department Queens Commissioner, Dorothy Lewandowski, offering no tangible solution to the problem and referring Mary Ann to yet another person in the NYC Parks Department, Helen Ho, who works for the Partnership for Parks and heads up the daffodil planting program in the Spring! Calls to Queens Parks Commissioner Dottie Lewandowski usually go unanswered or are referred to an underling, all of whom have no autonomy to be of help. And the dance goes on and on in the clueless NYC Parks Department “Theater of the Absurd!”

Even though the dog incidents are increasing, their importance from the authorities barely makes the enforcement radar screen. Read the following dog story that occurred just about 10 days ago and see if you don’t become angry at the lackadaisical approach to the whole issue. It’s only a matter of time before everyone will have a “dog story” to tell.

This story relates to “Margaret,” a 98-year old woman who walks her two small dogs daily on the leash in Juniper Park. Margaret was walking home with the dogs when an unleashed larger dog approached her dogs. The larger unleashed dog, which is owned by Margaret’s neighbor, attacked one of Margaret’s small dogs, Mango, leaving him bloody and half dead. Margaret has incurred large veterinary bills, trying to keep her beloved pet alive. Sadly, Mango who was about 15 years old, died. Margaret is devastated. The incident was reported to the police by JPCA Executive Board Member Robert Doocey, and their response was, “This is not an emergency and we will not respond.” That’s the help Margaret received when the attack was reported.

We continue to publish the NYC Health Code so that people who have no clue and actually think it’s ok to have their dogs unleashed because of the blurred messages from the authorities, can begin to comprehend the magnitude of their responsibilities as dog owners. Maybe even at some point it will sink in to the heads of the NYC Parks Department hierarchy, namely Commissioner Adrian Benepe, that their dangerous practice of allowing “courtesy time” for unleashed dogs in the parks is having a rippling effect in the community, putting everyone at risk for serious injury by an aggressive, unleashed dog.

I should add parenthetically at this point, dog owners who own certain aggressive breeds now have to report that fact on their homeowners insurance. If you go on any of the dog bite websites, you will be astonished as to how dog attacks have risen dramatically in recent years. Everyone’s homeowner insurance premiums reflect the slaughter in our parks and our streets. You may even have noticed the increase in lawyer advertisements on TV offering legal help to dog attack victims. How long before a small child becomes another chapter in the dog attack saga, just like little Mango or the senior citizen, Phyllis?

I hope NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe reads this article and recognizes the irresponsibility of the “courtesy time” for dog owners. It is a reckless and unlawful policy and it violates the NYC Health Code.

The following is the NYC Health Code that the Parks Commissioner regards so nonchalantly. It was taken from a NYC Parks Department website!

“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.”

“Parks & Recreation enforces the health code laws for the following reasons:

First, unleashed dogs pose potential danger to people and to other dogs. Many park users, horses, park wildlife and leashed dogs have been attacked and bitten by unleashed dogs. Second, many park visitors are frightened by dogs and may find unleashed dogs to be intimidating or annoying. Third, unleashed dogs are more likely to leave behind waste that is not picked up by their owners; canine waste is a known source of several pernicious zoonotic diseases. Finally, unleashed dogs destroy lawns and flower beds: areas used as informal “dog runs” have been severely damaged by the combination of wear and uric acid, a known killer of plant life.”

The Juniper Park Civic Association has stepped up the pressure by asking Mayor Bloomberg to enter into the unleashed dog problem. “We must do everything we can to protect the public,” said Bob Holden, President of the Juniper Park Civic. “It seems that the only way bureaucrats in the Department of Parks will act is after a tragedy. The JPCA will not wait for that.” Holden said that if the Mayor doesn’t act on the problem, then the JPCA will take it to the courts and challenge the irresponsible and absurd “relaxed leash policy.”

* We only used first names in this article because people who run their dogs off-leash have been harassing victims who have reported problems with dogs at Juniper Valley Park. To them, dogs are more important than people.