Thursday, July 23, 2009

Notes from July 16 Meeting

Below are notes from the McCarren Dog Run meeting on Thursday, 7/16/09. Approximately 15-20 dog run users participated. Also in attendance: Assemblyman Joe Lentol, Amy Cleary from his office, Stephanie Thayer (OSA/Parks), and Julia Morrow from OSA. The meeting began by discussing specific topics, and then turned into a very loosely structured Q&A.

Christine (Valencia) explained that a volunteer is making new benches. We'll be getting two big ones for the big run and two small ones for the small run. The big run will also get station for water bowls & bottles. These should be finished by the end of the month.

New Fencing
Christine introduced Assemblyman Joe Lentol, who explained that Parks Department’s contractor at Sternberg Park will bring over fencing from Sternberg Park that will match our fencing A contractor has been awarded the bid and it is going through legal review. Park’s design and construction department expects work at Sternberg to start in about five weeks,

Removing the Spikes
Assemblyman Lentol said he'd had a discussion with the Commissioner of Parks about removing the spikes. They are thinking of putting a bar over the spikes, which will look like a fence at Sternberg that has a flat iron piece welded on top. It is probably preferable to do it this way rather than removing the spikes because that way the fences keep their height.

Additional Funding
Assemblyman Lentol put in an application with Albany to get more funding for the dog run, but the focus right now is on the type of funding he has access to at the moment is supposed to be used for transportation projects, so it isn't looking likely.

Previous Funding
Stephanie Thayer (in a dual role as Administrator for parks in North Brooklyn and OSA's Executive Director) spoke about how Assemblyman Lentol allocated money years ago for both dog runs, but the funding was not drawn down. In the fall, they realized the total of $8000 was not enough to complete fencing in McGolrick Dog Park, so OSA kicked in $5000 toward that project. McCarren Dog Run will be getting salvaged fencing from Sternberg, and OSA is kicking in $500 as a stipend for the volunteers to install it. If necessary, OSA will allocate more funds. Parks/OSA are overseeing the project and will keep McCarren Dog Run updated.

Q&A portion:

How does funding get delineated?
Last fall, Assemblymember Lentol and Stephanie asked people from both dog runs what the top priorities were and both dog runs said "fencing.” She explained that it wasn't a matter of preference that McGolrick got the money for fencing; there just wasn't enough to do new fencing at both runs. By installing Sternberg's historical iron fencing at McCarren, the fencing needs at both dog runs would be addressed.

When the funding was put in, years ago, for improvements at McGolrick and McCarren, Dio had not been injured, and thus the spikes at McCarren were not a concern." At the time that the decision about how to address the fencing needs of both runs was made, not everyone was aware that Dio had been injured on the spikes.

Amy Cleary (from Assemblyman Lentol's office) explained that the fencing plan has been delayed because of contract issues: because of the economy, tons of contractors applied, and they have to find the lowest bid and determine who is qualified. However a contractor has been found so things are moving along.

Fencing is a top priority. Longer term priorities include drainage and lighting.

Stephanie talked about how some corporate volunteers came in to dig out and remove some of the underlying dirt and chips, and she would like to do more of that and bring in a bigger group.

When the fencing comes over, what is the process of communication?
Stephanie is willing to contact McCarren Dog Run via Christine with status updates.

Can anything be done about drainage?
As the dog run gets more populated, there could be more serious illnesses (like the recent leptospirosis outbreak) and people could get sick. This isn't just a problem in the dog run, but around the park -- anywhere there is stagnant water. Stephanie recognizes that drainage is an issue.

What are the off-leash rules? Signage is contradictory, and cops are being rough on people.
Stephanie says park staff is overwhelmed with trying to keep stuff clean, keep kids safe, etc. . She asked the NYPD to help with enforcements issues, such as vandalism, litter, illegal BBQs, and while they're in the park, they have the right to ticket for off-leash dogs. However she will investigate the conflicting signs in McCarren Park. Christine emphasized the benefits of having off-leash times in the park, especially between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m., because when people are in the park with their dogs, it keeps the park safer. In Prospect Park, having off-leash laws has lead to more people using the park, and keeping it safer.

Follow-Up Note: Since noted on Parks website:
My expectation is that McCarren was not designated for off leash hours because Parks prohibits dogs on athletic fields, and McCarren is predominantly athletic fields. Macri, about 4 blocks away, and Grand Ferry are the closest off leash parks.)

Can we get water in the dog run?
Assemblyman Lentol is trying to get a hold of money for this as well as for the drainage issue.. He is hoping we can get other elected officials to put some money in the pot. Stephanie says that we all need to participate and help raise money as Christine has in the past. Angela (Henry) mentioned that many people are willing to help fundraise, but we need to know what to do.

Joe Lentol has Multi-Modal money is trying to see if there is a way to use those funds for the dog run improvements. Amy from his office explained that they tried to get extra lighting for the run by asking for more street lights in the part of Driggs just outside of the run, but when DOT checked out the current lighting situation, they called it sufficient.

Stephanie recommended we visit various elected officials (city, state, etc.) at the beginning of the year. Amy from Joe Lentol's office offered to provide a list of the elected officials we could contact (including elected officials for bordering areas of the neighborhood, since their constituents use the run, too). Stephanie suggested that for those meetings, we bring photos, news reports, etc. to get their attention. Angela described the state-of-the-art drainage system at Tompkins Square Park's dog run.

Joe Lentol wrapped things up by saying that he was happy to meet us all, that he's looking forward to partnering with us in the future.

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