Members of the Juniper Park Civic Association testified at the February 22nd NYC Parks Department hearing regarding the adoption of official rules allowing for off-leash activity in parks throughout the city. You may recall that a judge ruled late last year that the Parks Department may allow for this and that the Department of Health recently amended the leash law to contain an exception to the rule for designation of off-leash areas by the Parks Commissioner. This latest hearing was the final step in the city’s done-deal trifecta.

Speakers from JPCA included Joyce Beaudoin, Lorraine Sciulli, Robert Holden, Tony Nunziato, Robert Doocey, Edward Kampermann, Manny Caruana and Lee Rottenberg. Each made their points eloquently and with passion. They were joined by several people from Prospect Park.

Of course, while each spoke, there were the typical boos and hisses from offleashers who have become obsessed with everything JPCA does and says and can’t stand people who disagree with them. Visit any blog on the internet that touches on the off-leash topic and you will see that they rabidly (no pun intended) go after JPCA not only on the dog issue, but on every issue we have ever fought for or against.

NYC DOG and other off-leash organizations are made up of people who value the ability of their dogs to run free more than they value their relationships with human beings. Therefore, their attempts at tearing down the reputation of groups that would dare to try to impose limits on the animals that they live their lives through come as no surprise. Just take a look at this nasty piece of propaganda from NYC DOG's website:

Analysis/Opinion: Why the JPCA Has Brought Suit
(note: this piece was originally written before the case was decided against the JPCA)

“Contrary to the Juniper Park Civic Association's rhetoric about a crisis of dogs running wild in NYC parks, in reality, this lawsuit is really about power and who controls the parks…”

Yes, and NYC DOG wants to control the parks.

“But the president of the JPCA doesn't see it that way. From [Bob Holden’s] perspective, Juniper Valley is HIS park, and he wants to control it. The JPCA's vitriolic statements against Commissioner Benepe stem from the commissioner's reluctance to give the JPCA carte blanche to control Juniper Valley Park…”

Neither Bob Holden nor JPCA want to control Juniper Park. We want to protect our neighbors from harm.

“The JPCA president is determined to force power from the Parks Dept. to the local Community Board (where, somewhat coincidentally, the JPCA president also happens to be the vice chairman and believes he can control what goes on at the Community Board level.)… ”

Robert Holden has one vote on the Community Board. There are 50 members total. He has been outvoted many a time.

“Ironically, just three years ago the JPCA honored Commissioner Benepe with the “2003 Community Service Award” possibly because Parks spent $1,800,000 renovating the ball fields in Juniper Park. Coincidentally, the President of the JPCA coaches baseball teams which use the new facilities. It all seemed pretty chummy…”

We have said it before, and will say it again. JPCA honors people who do good things for the community. We will fight against those same people if and when they do something detrimental to our community.

“It's clear that the private and un-elected Juniper Park Civic Association isn't interested in accommodating the needs of a significant number of Middle Village residents. At a recent meeting, a JPCA member who favors either Off-leash Hours or a dog park in Juniper Park was told to 'shut up.'…”

This never happened. The off-leashers, who are not members of JPCA invaded our March 2006 meeting and caused a scene and were told to leave.

“By filing the lawsuit, the president of the JPCA is vindictive enough to try to take down a successful 20-year Off-leash Hours Policy that benefits hundreds of thousands of people in the five boroughs of New York City in his effort to teach Commissioner Benepe and anyone else a lesson about what will happen in “his” park…”

The policy is not successful and is not a 20-year policy contrary to what NYC DOG and Adrian Benepe say. Just read this article and you will see that in 1998 Benepe was complaining about off-leash dogs and there was no mention of the 9pm-9am policy.

“It has also been rumored that the president of the JPCA has political ambitions for elected office. He could also be using this issue and the lawsuit to flex political muscle and generate publicity for self-aggrandizement, possibly hoping to achieve what he would consider a political “victory” that could be bandied about to garner votes in a future election, perhaps for City Council.”

Every time JPCA takes on a controversial issue, Holden is accused of having political aspirations. It’s been going on for 20+ years.

Incidentally, a member of our Executive Board who is in favor of dog runs wanted to start a dialogue with Robert Marino about the possibility of installing one at JVP. She asked him via e-mail to first take the above essay off of his website. He refused, saying that we have material on our website that is derogatory about his organization. So, an offer was then made to remove any material that NYC DOG deemed offensive from our website in exchange for removal of this passage from their site. As JPCA’s webmaster, I definitely would have no objection to or problem with doing this. Again, Marino refused. He apparently would prefer to leave an attack on JPCA on his site rather than have any type of civil dialogue about the issue of off-leash dogs or a dog park at Juniper Valley Park. (He believes he will be able to get what he wants by making an end run around us and going through the Dennis Gallagher Civic Association, whose members mysteriously are unanimously in favor of a dog run.) And if that wasn’t ludicrous enough, now Marino and company are making baseless accusations against our organization.

NYC DOG is telling the media that JPCA rigged an online petition to have more names on it than it should have. I can tell you that I set up our online petition, I am the only one who had the password for it, and I had no knowledge of this supposed transgression. I was only notified about this by the hosting company after writing to them to inquire about what happened. The addition of 4,000 names using some kind of program occurred, that is true. But the person who did it did not need JPCA's username and password to do it. There were just under 2,200 names that were on that petition and those were submitted to the Parks Department along with our old petition and additional names which had been collected over time. If any funny business took place with regards to it, it wasn’t done by me or anyone connected with JPCA. If it happened at all, it most likely was perpetrated by the fringe offleashers whose mission is to discredit JPCA and refocus the public's attention away from the valid arguments we put forth with regards to the dangers of off-leash activity. NYC DOG claims they submitted 13,000 names on their petition. Could it be that they are accusing us of using fake names on our petition because that is exactly what they did? Which number seems more plausible: theirs or ours?

It really wouldn’t behoove us to waste our time and energy to add excess names to a petition, because the Parks Department, as the Department of Health, told us that names on petitions would not be counted individually, but that the entire document would be counted as one comment. But perhaps Robert Marino knows something about the rules of the Parks Department that we don’t know. He seems to have an awfully cozy relationship with Adrian Benepe, because Adrian Benepe does everything Robert Marino asks him to do. He even uses his quotes, such as, “A tired dog is a good dog.”

As Denis Hamill pointed out, “And idiotic commissioners are bad commissioners.”

And off-leash advocates who spend all their free time attacking volunteer civic groups are bonafide wackos.

Why the City of New York and Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe are catering to these lunatics is beyond me. It probably has something to do with the fact that the Parks Department gets their budget cut every year and they rely on conservancies to keep our parks in decent condition. The offleashers contribute heavily to these conservancies. As in the case of private schools wanting exclusive access to Randalls Island, the rest of our public parkland has been auctioned off to the highest bidder – dog owners. The off-leashers have proven that they can't control their own behavior. But they somehow have brainwashed Benepe into believing that they can be trusted to control the behavior of their dogs. Follow the money.

Hey, this sounds like a story for the New Absurd Times!