HOW DO I GET A DOG RUN BUILT?
by Jeff Zahn, President NYCDOG
First published on www.urbanhound.com
II CREATING A DOG OWNERS GROUP
1. Why do you want to have a group?
2. How do I form a dog owners group?
3. Is a dog run right for you?
III THE DOG RUN
4. Finding a place that's right for you
5. So size does matter, but what else?
6. Whose land is it anyway?
7. The dog run plan
8. Preparing a budget and raising the funds
9. The proposal
Benefits Of A Designated Off-Leash Area
Sample Dog Run Rules
IV THE APPROVAL PROCESS
10. Who's on first?
11. Covering the bases
12. Getting it approved
The question comes through to the firstname.lastname@example.org desk all the time, in one version or another: "How do I start a dog park?" There are many different recipe lists and stories out there in the ether, several of them quite good. This analysis however, was developed specifically for, and originally published at, www.urbanhound.com. It is intended to be detailed to the New York City condition, though essentially all the points apply nearly anywhere in America.
The review is broken up into three sections, though please recognize that there is significant overlap between the sections. The main areas that need to be addressed are:
- Creating a dog owners group
- Planning the dog run
- The approval process
We'll start with creating a dog owners group, since everything else you do will be made easier, and more fun, if you do it with others! It's also, in many ways, the easiest part of the endeavor.
First, we need to define some terms. Off-leash recreation, what does it really mean? Simple, playing with your dog(s) without a leash attached, right? Right! Except, where are you allowed to do this? Several different designations have been applied to areas in which off-leash recreation is allowed. Often, these terms are used interchangeably. For the purposes of this article, however, we will define several terms here and now. A dog run is a fenced enclosure of any size. A dog park is an unfenced park in which off-leash recreation is allowed for some, or all, of the day throughout the park. An Off-Leash Area (OLA) can refer to either a dog run, a dog park, or a specific, unfenced area within a larger park.
Traditionally, in New York City, dog runs have been small, dirt surfaced enclosures. Over the years, some runs have upgraded to include wood chips or pea gravel, and occasionally a water source. With the advent of the 105th Street Dog Run in Riverside Park, dog run design in NYC has take a step to another level. While most current runs in NYC remain much too small, the overall design of the 105th Street Dog Run was developed by dog owners after exhaustive research nationwide as well as building on experiences locally and includes a central crushed granite play surface, drainage, a water source, benches, a double-gated entry, and a separate small dog area. With the advent of the new style of dog runs, and in keeping with a general movement nationally, we often eschew the term "dog run" given its historic connotation in NYC, and instead simply refer to off-leash areas. Nonetheless, we will continue to base this article on the creation of a properly designed and constructed fenced enclosure, referred to as a dog run, though we will often note considerations for establishing other types of OLAs.
The following two sections are broken up into a few components, though please recognize that there is significant overlap between them. We'll start with creating a dog owners group, since everything else you do will be made easier, and more fun, if you do it with others! It's also, in many ways, the easiest part of the endeavor.
II.CREATING A DOG OWNERS GROUP
1. Why Do You Want To Create A Dog Owners Group?
Nearly every dog run in New York City was established because of the actions of a group of people, even if there may commonly be a single dominant, motivating individual in many of these groups.
- Since there is much work to be done, it is easier to have several hands, and brains, working on the task.
- When the Powers That Be (PTB) are deciding to "give up land to dogs," it is reassuring to them to see an organization in place rather than an individual who may move on at any time.
- Having a Board of Directors or a Steering Committee allows time for consideration of options, as in, "Well, of course I'll have to run this past my board before I can commit."
- A Board reassures both your own constituents and the PTB that decisions and actions are based on deliberation and consensus rather than the whims of a single individual.
- Once you have established a dog owners group, you are eligible to become a member of the New York Council of Dog Owner Groups, benefit from its multitude of resources, and help it in its goal to improve off-leash opportunities throughout the city.
2. How Do I Form A Dog Owners Group?
The overwhelming likelihood is that you currently own a dog and are walking that dog in the same general area regularly; similarly, so are a lot of other people you see over and over again.
- One of the easiest ways to form a group is with a petition of some sort. Generally the simpler, the better. For example, "I support the creation of a dog run in Urbanhound Park." See sample petitions below.
- Make sure you have space for names, addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, and occupations/talents if possible. This process will give you a ready "membership", people you can legitimately claim to be representing.
- The more "members" the better, because when the PTB decide in your favor to help you create a dog run, there will all but certainly be opposition to the plan, and it helps to have more people who want something done than those who want to prevent it.
- The petition also provides you with people to hit up for donations at a later date, and a rapid way of contacting large numbers of constituents when you need their support at meetings.
Some dog owner groups have even gone so far as to establish themselves as freestanding corporations particularly for banking purposes, or 501c3 not-for-profit organizations. An advantage of not-for-profit status comes into play when soliciting donations and doing your banking, but the process does require a bit of paperwork and expense. Having a lawyer or accountant in your ranks can be helpful in making these decisions and getting the work done. The book, Getting Organized, by the Lawyers Alliance of New York, 99 Hudson Street, NY, NY 10013, is an invaluable source of explanations and information on this issue.
There are other ways around the donations and banking issues. The City Parks Foundation, or an already existent "Friends of Urbanhound Park" organization (such as the Riverside Park Fund in Riverside Park or Friends of Van Cortlandt Park in Van Cortlandt Park) may be willing to administer a bank account for a grassroots "park volunteer" group, for instance, but you do risk losing some of your ability to control your own funds. Regardless, don't let this particular aspect of the process bog you down. You can always change your status at a later date.
Sample Petitions For A Dog Run:
I SUPPORT FLORAL'S INITIATIVE FOR
THE CREATION OF A
WORLD CLASS DOG PARK IN SOUTHERN RIVERSIDE PARK!
For Extended Off-Leash Hours:
EXTEND THE OFF LEASH HOURS
We the undersigned are daily users of Riverside Park. We have adopted the 73 rd Street Meadows in conjunction with the Riverside Park Fund, and for the past year and a half, have cleaned the area, planted flowers, raked leaves, removed garbage, and shown that dogs create no more wear and tear on the area than any other park users.
The excessive force and overly aggressive behavior of Parks Enforcement Patrol officers recently towards responsible dog owners is uncalled for. An off-leash dog should not provoke an emotional confrontation.
As responsible citizens who care for the welfare of the park, we believe a fair and simple solution is to change the law and allow dogs off leash in the 73rd Street Meadows at times when dog owners can reasonably be expected to walk their dogs and when few other people are using the area: before 10 am and after 5 pm.
3. Is A Dog Run Right For You?
The process of forming a dog owners group will also tell you whether or not you actually have support for a dog run amongst your own constituents.
- Five years ago, when FLORAL (Friends and Lovers Of Riverside Area Life, a dog owner and park advocacy group in southern Riverside Park) first got off the ground, dog owners in the southern end of Riverside Park did not want a dog run. We had 9 pm - 9 am off-leash hours at that time, and people wanted either an expansion of those hours or a 24 hour flagged, but un-fenced zone. Over the years, when more of the park became declared off-limits to dogs leashed or not, people revised this stance and a dog run became desirable to many of the dog owners in this area.
- In Prospect Park, FIDO (Fellowship for the Interests of Dogs and their Owners, a dog owners group in Prospect Park), was successful in gaining an expansion to their off-leash hours (5 pm - 9 am in one field all year, and in many fields from November through March), and dog owners generally are not supportive of a dog run there at this time.
- In Central Park, dog owners are also not eager to have a dog run, preferring their large open spaces (though they too would like designated areas where the off-leash hours are expanded).
In general, it seems to be the theme that dog runs are eagerly desired in smaller parks and areas where there is little park space (i.e., Greenwich Village). In these situations, there is even greater competition for space among park user groups and securing your "own" designated area may simplify matters for everyone. If in fact you determine that a dog run is not your goal, your petition can read, "I support the goal of an expansion to the off-leash hours in Urbanhound Park," or whatever type of plan you decide upon. (Don't worry, though, the remainder of this analysis can still be easily applied to any type of off-leash plan you choose).
III. HOW DO I GET A DOG RUN BUILT?
Planning the run is often the most fun part of the process, and will help get you familiar with many of the requirements of managing a dog run as well. In some cases, you will already have an old decrepit dog run that you and your fellow dog owners simply want refurbished. This is a much easier process although you may still face much of the same opposition as those starting from scratch. For more information, skip to Section III, 7, The Dog Run Plan.
- Finding A Place That Is Right For You
Okay, so let's assume you've decided that you and your constituents want a dog run. The first step here is to define a space. Sounds easy right?
- Go to a nearby park, or beach, or any open space (even abandoned parking lots, warehouses, or factories will do), and say to yourself, "This would make a great dog run!"
- SIZE is the one overriding criterion! Most of the literature suggests that dog parks should be at least an acre (43,560 square feet), and the bigger the better for both the dogs and for those maintaining the facility.
- Admittedly, the size of the community you are trying to serve will affect the overall dimensions (ten dog owners will unlikely be granted a large space, whereas 1000 dog owners cannot be expected to cram into 1000 square feet!).
- Once you've identified an ideal site, you should define several alternative spaces. There is a strong probability that your first choice will end up not being suitable (to others).
- Create pro and con lists for the sites you pick and rank them so others can understand your choices.
- While you're at it, identify the most out of the way places too, because these are the sites that those who don't want a dog park will try to put to you. This way you'll already have the "con" list for rebuttal.
In NYC, FLORAL has recently gained approval for what will be the largest dog playground in the 5 boroughs, and we only have a half an acre! While this is still woefully small, it is a step in the right direction toward showing how larger parks are more successful; hopefully this will increase the likelihood of even better parks being created in our city. The current largest dog run in NYC is Tompkins Square Park's First Run at ~ 17,000 square feet (yes, as its name suggest, it was the first run in the City). Runs around the city generally range from 5-12,000 square feet, which translates to an average of about 3% of a given park's total area (except in Riverside Park's case, where the three existing dog runs combined still total less than 0.3% of the total park space!)
5. So Size Does Matter, But What Else?
A few more important items you want to consider, in addition to size, when picking sites and creating pro and con lists are access, water, shade, and drainage.
- Access: For those of you in the outer boroughs, parking may be an issue. After-dark safety is also to be considered with street views and lighting important contributing factors.
- Water: Most city parks have reasonably good water supply and distribution, but you certainly want to make sure your site is not far from an accessible source. Ideally, a water hook-up should be incorporated within the run's bounds, especially for amenities within the facility (i.e. drinking fountains, wading pools) as well as for maintenance, cleaning, and sanitation.
- Drainage: Drainage can be installed under any dog run, and is strongly advised at all times, but it can be expensive. A slight slope in the natural topography can be of great benefit compared to a flat area that may regularly flood or stay damp. Too much of a slope on the other hand can be problematic from an erosion standpoint, but can frequently be compensated with creative landscaping.
- Shade: Again, a balance needs striking. You do want some shade available for those hot days. Too many trees however can take up too much space from your overall play area, and too much shade can result in a chronically damp, odiferous facility.
6. Whose Land Is It Anyway?
Ownership (public vs. private) of the site will affect the order of your progress. Even if the site is privately owned you will all but certainly still require public and governmental review and approval to create such a facility
- If the site is privately owned, obviously you will need the owner's permission. This would be worth pursuing prior to engaging in any of the public review processes since if the owner refuses, the point is moot. If the owner is agreeable, then several of the following issues will still come into play.
- Most likely you will end up on public property and the full scope of bureaucratic and political legwork will be in your future. The further likelihood is that you will be looking at sites that come under the jurisdiction of the City of New York/Parks & Recreation (DPR), which will remain the presumed course of action for this review.
- It is also possible that the property you've chosen falls under the jurisdiction of another agency of the city (for example, West Village DOG had a dog run on land under the control of the Department of Sanitation (DOS)).
It will commonly be obvious who "owns" - or at least speaks for - the particular property, but if this happens to not be true in your case, your Community Board (see below) will likely be able to help direct you in finding out who does own the site.
7. The Dog Run Plan
Draw up a simple plan of the dog run. If you have identified any architects or artists in your ranks, this will be much easier. Pay a visit to some of the successful runs around the city to gain a sense of what is possible (the newly renovated 105th Street Dog Run in Riverside Park and James' Dog Run in Madison Square Park in Manhattan, are excellent examples).
- You needn't come up with thorough plans or drawings, just a plan of the site within its surrounding area and the basic components.
- The basics should include: fence line, water location, small dog area (many runs now incorporate this concept, or a second site can be used), benches, trees (with "tree benches" encircling them to protect the trees), and gates (two entries are highly recommended, and they should be "double gated" with a vestibule so that dogs don't run out when a single gate is open).
- Surface: just a few words here. Many surfaces have been tried, each with their pros and cons, supporters and detractors. Some of the most common surfaces in the past have been wood chips and pea gravel. Many complain that wood chips absorb (and re-release) odor too readily and are attractive to fleas and bugs, while others note that pea gravel bothers their dogs' paws. Crushed granite has come to the forefront as a durable, well draining surface that avoids both of these problems.
Grass, you ask? Many dog run proponents will warn against grass as it is too fragile to stand up to daily, constant wear. However, it is my personal observation that the critical issues are space and design. Certainly I would agree that in a small dog run supporting a large population grass will not last. Nonetheless, in an appropriately sized space, with grassy areas located peripheral to the main, central running area, grass should be sustainable with active maintenance. A successful example of a grass surface is in the Bronx at Canine Court, NYC's first dog agility area in Van Cortlandt Park. Furthermore, a large enough space will allow small grassy areas to be closed down periodically, temporarily "rested" for rejuvenation.
8. Preparing A Budget And Raising Funds
Fundraising can be an ongoing project from the first day you start your organization. Funds come from many sources, and likely you will need to obtain sums from each.
- Your elected officials may have discretionary funds they can allocate. This can serve very well as seed money to get others interested, and believing, in the viability of the project.
- The DPR often puts partial funding to the construction of dog runs (though not to the maintenance - they count on dog owners for that).
- Your membership, local merchants (especially pet related businesses), and larger pet related corporations should also be pursued as viable sources for funding.
- Dog runs can be "created" for no greater expense than cheap fencing around existing pavement, grass, or dirt, but this will not likely satisfy you, your constituents, or anyone else concerned about aesthetics and sanitation for very long. And this will likely increase your maintenance costs.
- With basic drainage considerations, surfacing, a decent fence and gates, a few benches, and a water hook-up, expect to spend at least $50,000 - $75,000 (of course, the size of your run will effect the price to some degree, as well as whether you are working with City employees on City property or with private contractors on privately owned land).
Once the project has been accepted by the DPR, they will work with you on developing an accurate budget and construction plan. If you are doing this on your own, with another agency, or on private land, you will need to do much of this yourself, likely with the help of a licensed landscape architect. Fortunately, the resources are generally easy to come by, and in fact can be gathered from existing DPR and NYCDOG sources since they have the most experience with actually building dog runs. Don't forget to develop a maintenance budget as well (garbage bags, poop bags, periodic surface restoration, sanitation treatments, etc.)
9. The Proposal
As an organizing tool, draft a written proposal. Initially, this could be an outline or a brief description, but ultimately a broader formal proposal should be prepared. A well-prepared document will duly impress and can go a long way toward gaining support from critical individuals involved in the process.
Benefits Of A Designated Off-Leash Area
- The proposal should cover the benefits of a designated off-leash area (i.e., a dog run), why it should be supported by the community, and how it will be maintained (who will be responsible for what); including a sample set of "Dog Run Rules" will show management forethought.
- Other points to incorporate are why your particular site has been selected and concise descriptions of the pros and cons of other potential choices.
- A schematic of the dog run as prepared above, along with rough budget expectations and a brief review of funding plans should be included.
- Off-leash areas protect the rights of community members and other park users by preventing off-leash dogs from infringing on their activities.
- Adequate off-leash play and exercise, as can be obtained in designated off-leash areas, makes dogs better neighbors who are less likely to bark incessantly or jump on people.
- Off-leash areas bring people together, create a greater sense of community, and provide a forum for dog owners to share information that can help foster more responsible pet ownership, thereby making dog owners better neighbors, too.
Sample Dog Run Rules:
- Encouraging dog owners (and their dogs) to enjoy the parks, as off-leash areas do, helps deter crime in these areas.
TO INSURE HAPPY TIMES FOR ALL, PLEASE OBSERVE THE FOLLOWING GUIDELINES:
CAUTION: FOOD, CHILDREN & CHOKE COLLARS at your OWN risk!
- Monitor and clean up after yourself & your dog.
- Accompany your dog AT ALL TIMES.
- NO DOGS IN HEAT.
- Closely monitor un-neutered males.
- ALL dogs involved in aggressive incidents must leave the area.
- Please muzzle aggressive dogs, and avoid prong collars.
- ALL dogs must be licensed and immunized.
- Puppies MUST have full immunization.
- Discourage digging, and FILL HOLES!
- Bring your own, and extra, toys, & RETURN "stolen" toys!
- DISCOURAGE BARKING!!
- No more than 4 dogs per person.
IV THE PROCESS
This is the most complicated aspect of getting a dog run built. The items discussed so far are relatively easy and are tasks you can essentially do on your own (with the others who have joined your steering committee). It is "the process" that requires you to work well with others, and often at their pace. Needless to say, this can be the most frustrating part of creating a dog run.
10. Who's On First?
In New York City, everyone has an opinion about everything. Naturally there are many players who will want a say in whether or not you can have a dog run as well as where you'll end up getting to locate it. In this section, we'll identify the likely participants.
The way the CBs work is that an issue gets discussed at the Committee level, a resolution gets proposed and passed or defeated (a resolution may actually be passed that "disapproves" a proposal), and the resolution then goes on to the full board for ratification at its next monthly meeting. While only the votes of the Committee members carry weight for the resolution's passage or defeat at the Committee level, a vote of non-committee Board members as well as "public members" gets taken, too. "Public members" are usually defined as members of the community who have attended three committee meetings over a given time period, but different Boards may have different rules on this, so inquire on your own.
- The "owner" of the property. As described above, this will commonly be the DPR, which is organized into a distinct hierarchy. The Commissioner of Parks (currently Henry Stern) is actually answerable only to the Mayor. Theoretically, the Deputy Mayor of Business Services and Community Development oversees the DPR, but the Commissioner is subject to no other real regulatory agency, except on projects which require the NYC Arts Commission's approval. Next, each borough has its own Borough Commissioner of Parks. Finally, each major park has a Park Administrator. Smaller parks may fall under the jurisdiction of one of these Park Administrators, or one equivalent individual will be the main person responsible for activities, maintenance, etc of several small parks. This hierarchy can be frustrating, because it is difficult to find a way to bring pressure to bear to bend the DPR to your desire. Be prepared, the DPR will commonly want to give you less space, in a less desirable location, than you ask for. Also, be ready for inefficient communication from DPR officials.
If it is another agency of the city, there is likely a similar hierarchy with which you will need to become familiar. For example, Battery Park in lower Manhattan is governed by the Battery Park City Authority which is a whole different ballgame. The local site manager and the commissioner of the department at the very least will be people you will need to introduce yourself to and stay friendly with, wherever possible.
- Other local (park) groups. Frequently, there will be other organizations such as Business Improvements Districts (BID), block associations, soccer leagues, schools, bird watchers, horseback riders, neighboring buildings including residential and commercial interests, etc. who use either the space you are after or some place nearby. These groups will almost undoubtedly be against a dog run, especially if it is sprung upon them or "threatens" a space they use. Your best bet is to identify the potential interested parties and plan to approach, befriend, and cajole them before the plan is brought forth for the approval process. Find out their concerns and attempt to address them in good faith, however outlandish they may seem.
If you are in a city park, there may already be an existing "Friends of..." park group. Frequently, these groups are fundraisers and volunteers, and will more likely to understand the benefit of helping out another volunteer group, as well as understanding the benefit to the park of having a dog run. Accordingly, they may be one of your first easy allies.
- The Community Board. Every section of the city is represented by a Community Board (CB). These agencies are made up of volunteer members appointed to two year terms by the local elected city council members and the borough president. The CBs are advisory only, not regulatory. This means that city agencies can still do whatever they want regardless of a CB's decision, but it is politically easier if the CB has approved. CBs usually have a Parks Committee, a Land Use Committee, and a Landmarks Committee (as well as other committees), any of which might oversee a dog run issue depending on what site you are proposing. CBs and their Committees each meet monthly. There is also a Community Board Administrator who is a paid employee hired by the Board to manage the office, field phone calls, schedule meetings, prepare minutes/agendas, etc. This individual is not a "member" of the Board, but is often full of helpful information.
In contacting these officials, you can also pursue the local political "clubs". It is not uncommon for a given district to have several clubs, such as the Upper West Side's Community Free Democrats, so have your elected officials help you contact the club most closely representing the area in which your chosen dog run site exists. Again, the club leaders may hold some sway with both the CB and with other important groups in the community.
- Local elected officials. These particularly include your City Council Member, State Assembly Member, and State Senator. You could add to this your Congressional Representative and Senator, but a dog run is fairly well below their radar. They generally represent a much larger district, and your votes are slightly less meaningful to them. Your votes, on the other hand, are very important to the first three officials mentioned. Not only will these elected officials (and/or their staffers) generally hear you out or respond to your letters, they will often intercede in negotiations for you and/or be sources of funding for the dog run project. It is with these officials where the numbers of members in your dog run group really takes on meaning. Furthermore, these officials often hold some measure of sway with individual CB members.
11. Covering The Bases
So how to go about it? You will generally want or need to interact with all the above-mentioned parties over the course of the project, but you want to have your own organization in place first.
While you're doing all that, find out early on if their exists a "Friends of..." group for your park or a block association or some other significant organization that represents the specific area you are considering. You can usually do this through your Council Member's office or the Community Board Administrator. This group will generally be either your most organized ally or opponent. Then identify other potentially concerned groups and consider reaching out to them where possible. Of course, there will be some groups you can be sure will oppose your plan, so it is better to line up your supporters first. Your goal is to convince them all that you are eager for their assistance to help protect their interests as this project goes forward.
- It is helpful to start yourselves out emphasizing your volunteer nature, especially if your site is in a city park. Register your group with the DPR's volunteer coordinator and sign up with the Partnership for Parks. You can even "adopt" the area you want your dog run to be in long before you ever propose such a plan.
- Participating in citywide park volunteer days (one in the spring, one in the fall) is a good step. Initiate a project like starting a garden near your selected area, or donating plants or bulbs to an existing gardening group, or donating and arranging for the installation of a poop bag dispenser or garbage cans. These are just some tried and true endeavors to ingratiate yourselves.
- At the same time, start going to Community Board meetings to learn the lay of the land, how the board functions, and who on it seems to be sympathetic. Showing that you have concerns for the whole park and community, broader than just your "pet" issue, is also looked upon favorably by the Community Boards.
- After you have your petition numbers adding up (shoot for 1000, but several hundred is a good start), contact your elected officials. Let them know your desire for a dog run and your desire for their assistance in making this project become a reality.
- At this point, assuming you are dealing with a city park, contact the park officials (a letter to any one of them in the chain of command, copied to each, followed up with a phone call will commonly get you a meeting, eventually). Inform them, in brief, of your existence and activities, your desires for a dog run, and your wish to meet with them to discuss the matter.
12. Getting It Approved
To actually be able to build the run, you will need the formal approval of the site owner, at least, and any other formal advisory and/or regulatory body that decides it has any sort of jurisdiction. If you're lucky, you won't meet any resistance anywhere, but that would be most unusual.
- Ultimately your plan will require the endorsement of the site "owner." While it is conceivable that you can get your Community Board to approve the "concept" of a dog run somewhere in the area first, it is often better to start the formal process with the site owner.
- The CB's endorsement may or may not be required initially, but as opponents to the run line up they will invariably find a venue for their complaints at the CB, so this battle is likely to loom. Commonly the CB will be divided in its sentiments and their approval uncertain. Be ready for strong feelings against dog owners from members of the CB and other community members. The complaints of kids over dogs, people over dogs, unsanitary conditions, barking noise, odors, aesthetics will all come up.
- Be patient, be methodical; in the end, the more support you've been able to garner, the better chance you stand.
- Call on NYCDOG to help in your testimony.
- Using flyers, a newsletter, or a website to educate your constituents, make sure your own people always explain this as a "people" issue, not a "dog" issue (the, "My dog needs..." argument doesn't get you very far). Remember, you are tax- paying citizens too.
- Make sure your people come to, and speak at, meetings. They should be exhorted to eschew anger and emotion and project instead a calm, reasonable demeanor.
- Start up a letter writing/phone calling campaign well in advance of public approval meetings; include the DPR, elected officials, and ranking CB members (relevant committee chairs, the Board chair) on the recipient list. A courteous and brief sample letter for your constituents is very helpful (a sample letter is provided below).
- Encourage local veterinarians and other community leaders who support your project to attend and speak at these meetings. Celebrity power can be extremely helpful, too.
- Make sure the local press receives copies of a list of the benefits of dog runs.
- The only other agencies likely to be involved, and not covered already in Section IV.10, include the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC, advisory) and the NYC Arts Commissions (regulatory), but these approvals will only come up, if at all, after you've gone through the above. If you have the support of a city agency (i.e., the DPR) and your CB, your chances are usually pretty good, and the particular city agent will help guide you through these steps. Again, if you are going it alone, you will likely require professional architectural guidance.
Have faith in the knowledge that most every group has succeeded to some degree, even if they end up with somewhat less than they hoped for. And don't be discouraged if it seems to be taking forever; the longest approval/building process we know of took 10 years, though most dog runs open up within just a few years of a group getting the ball rolling.
I am requesting your assistance in helping us establish a dog run in Urbanhound Park. Dog runs have been built in many parks throughout NYC and are routinely successful. The many benefits of a dog run include:
1. Off-leash areas protect the rights of community members and other park users by preventing off-leash dogs from infringing on their activities.
2. Encouraging groups of dog owners (and their dogs) to enjoy the parks, as off-leash areas do, helps deter crime in these areas.
3. Adequate off-leash play and exercise, as can be obtained in designated off-leash areas, makes dogs better neighbors who are less likely to bark incessantly or jump on people.
4. Off-leash areas bring people together, create a greater sense of community, and provide a forum for dog owners to share information that can help foster more responsible pet ownership, thereby making dog owners better neighbors, too.
Nonetheless, some in the community may oppose a dog run, often based on unjustified stereotypes. A well designed dog run does not smell badly, is not unsanitary, and needn't be ugly, but instead can be an attractive addition to our park.
I support Urbanhound DOG's efforts to create a successful dog run in Urbanhound Park, and hope you will too. In the end we will find that such a run, built with cooperation and good will, will be a hugely successful project for all park users.
Once the dog run is built, the community will expect you to take care of it. If it is in a park, the DPR has shown little initiative in taking care of these facilities in a manner that keeps them usable. It remains in your best interest to keep your dog owners group functional for periodic fundraising and clean-ups, as well as rules "enforcement" in the run.
Occasionally, threats to the longevity of your run may crop up, so keeping in touch, and in good standing, with the policy and decision-makers will be to your benefit. Accordingly, it may be helpful to have regular meetings with the DPR and/or community officials to keep abreast of potential problems and complaints so you can address them expediently.