The following letter was sent to Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, Commissioner of the Department of Health:

Dear Commissioner Frieden,

The Queens Civic Congress is an organization devoted to the betterment of the neighborhoods of Queens by listening to the people who reside here and taking action on their behalf. The Congress represents more than 100 civic and other community organizations across the borough.

The purpose of this letter is to express our concern over what your Department is currently considering with regards to relaxing the leash law in city parks. In March 2006, the Queens Civic Congress unanimously voted in favor of supporting the Juniper Park Civic Association’s lawsuit against the Parks Department aimed at stopping off-leash activity in our parks. There are many reasons as to why.

Over the years since this “unofficial” policy was put into effect, many of our organizations on this letter have received complaints about off-leash activity from the residents of their respective neighborhoods. We were informed of incidents relating to dogs tearing up park turf and destroying vegetation; dogs biting children, adults, other dogs and park life; dogs jumping on people, knocking them over or otherwise intimidating them; owners of dogs that hurt people trying to leave the scene to escape culpability or blaming the victims of attacks; dangerous pack behavior and fights amongst off-leash dogs; off-leash dog owners harassing park users when asked to keep their pets under control or clean up after them; park users finding areas that were clean at sundown covered in dog excrement at sunrise; and dogs trespassing in protected areas or areas reserved for passive use.

Our constituency has made it clear to us that the majority of Queens residents are not in favor of this policy. Many of our neighbors no longer use our parks and many park volunteers have stopped doing the great work they do because of the intimidating and threatening presence of off-leash dogs.

We made our stance against his off-leash policy known to Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe on several occasions, but he chose to ignore us and instead honor the wishes of a vocal fringe of dog owners. The needs of their dogs are taking precedence over the needs of people throughout Queens, and the rest of the city.

Our membership performed hours of fact-finding research on this issue before writing to you which I have attached to this letter. (Click here for attachment.)

We also feel the law as currently written is non-discriminatory as it applies to all dog owners equally throughout the city. The proposed revision to the code would force off-leash dogs on less affluent communities that do not have the capability to raise tens of thousands of dollars to start and maintain a dog run. Parks in Manhattan currently have 16 official dog runs to serve the borough’s population of 1.3 million people. Yet Queens, with its population of 2.2 million people, has only 7 dog runs. It is clear that Parks prefers to spend its money in upper class Manhattan while unleashing the dogs on middle and lower class Queens.

We, the Queens Civic Congress, on behalf of a collection of neighborhood organizations that represent the interests of people all across the borough of Queens, respectfully ask you to vote against amending the leash law. By doing so, you will uphold your oath to protect the health and safety of the residents of Queens and all of New York City.

We would appreciate a response to our concerns before your board makes its vote on this issue.

Thank you.

Yours truly,

Sean Walsh

On behalf of:

Association of Old Forest Hills
Bayside Hills Civic Association
Bayswater Civic Association
Bay Terrace Community Alliance
Bellaire/Bellville Civic Association
Belle Harbor Property Owners
Bellerose Commonwealth Civic Association
Bellerose-Hillside Civic Association,
Bell Park Manor-Terrace Community Council
Bowne Park Civic Association
Briarwood Community Association
Cambria Heights Civic Association
College Point Civic Taxpayers Association
Comm. of Maspeth & Elmhurst Together
Concerned Citizens of Laurelton
Creedmoor Civic Association
Doug-Bay Manor Civic Association
Douglaston Civic Association
Douglas Manor Association
East Flushing Civic Association
Federated Blocks of Laurelton
Floral Park Community Council
Flushing on the Hill Civic Association
Flushing Heights Civic Association
Flushing Suburban Civic Association
Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce
Forest Hills Crescents Association
Forest Hills-Van Court Association
Fresh Meadows Homeowners Association
Georgetown Mews
Glen Oaks Village Owners
Greater Astoria Historical Society
Greater Whitestone Taxpayers Civic Association
Harding Heights Civic Association
Hillcrest Estates Civic Association
Hilltop Village Co-op #4
Hollis Hills Civic Association
Holliswood Civic Association
Hollis Park Gardens Association
Holly Civic Association
Hunters Point Community Coalition
Hyde Park Gardens Cooperative
Jackson Heights Beautification Group
Jamaica Estates Association
Jamaica Hill Community Association
Juniper Park Civic Association
Kew Forest Neighborhood Association
Kew Gardens Civic Association
Kew Gardens Hills Civic Association
Kissena Park Civic Association
Little Neck Bay Civic Association
Little Neck Community Association
Little Neck Pines Association
Lost Community Civic Association
Malba Civic Association
Middle Village Property Owners
Mitchell-Linden Civic Association
Newtown Civic Association
Newtown Historical Society
North Bellerose Civic Association
North Flushing Civic Association
North Hills Estates Civic Association
North Queens Homeowners Civic Association
Norwood Neighborhood Association
Oakland Terrace/Gardens Council
Off Broadway Homeowners
Our Neighborhood Improvement Association
Ozone Tudor Civic Association
Queensboro Hill Neighborhood Association
Queens Colony Civic Association
Queens Community Civic Corporation
Queens Village Civic Association
Ramblersville-Hawtree Civic Association
Richmond Hill Historic Association
Ridgewood Property Owners Association
Rocky Hill Civic Association
Rosedale Civic Association
Royal Ranch Association
Sagamore Douglaston Civic Association
Southeast Queens Coalition of Concerned Neighbors
Southeast Queens Federation of Civic Associations
South Ozone Park Coalition of Block Associations
South Ozone Park West Civic Association
Springfield/Rosedale Community Association
Sunnyside Gardens/Harrison Place
Surrey Estates Civic Association
The Property Civic Association
Union Turnpike Merchants Association
United Forties Civic Association
United Neighbors Civic Associations of Jamaica
Utopia Estates Civic Association
Utopia Improvement Association
Village Mall at Hillcrest
Waldheim Neighborhood Association
Wayanda Civic Association
West Cunningham Park Civic Association
Westmoreland Association
Woodside Community Council

Commissioner of Parks and Recreation Adrian Benepe
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski
Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum
Queens Borough President Helen Marshall
Council Speaker Christine Quinn
Councilmember Joseph Addabbo
Councilmember Anthony Avella
Councilmember Leroy Comrie
Councilmember Dennis Gallagher
Councilmember James Gennaro
Councilmember Eric Gioia
Councilmember Melinda Katz
Councilmember John Liu
Councilmember Hiram Monserrate
Councilmember James Sanders, Jr.
Councilmember Helen Sears
Councilmember Peter Vallone, Jr.
Councilmember David Weprin
Councilmember Thomas White, Jr.
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