downtownexpress.com
Volume 20 Issue 12 | August. 3 - 9, 2007

Downtown Express photo by Jefferson Siegel

At the unofficial dog area at Pier 16 recently were Liza, front, and her owner Carl Byrd, back center, while Jack Chen held Moose, his Labradoodle.

Downtown’s East Siders to get temporary dog run

By Jennifer Milne

On a sunny Saturday morning, a pack of dogs gleefully trotted off-leash at the end of Pier 16 at the South Street Seaport. They sniffed one another, spoke in happy barks and played chase on the pier’s wooden planks. No, these dogs hadn’t escaped from their owners and run amok — they’ve been using the pier as an “unofficial” dog run for years, since Downtown’s East River area hasn’t got one.

“We have a core group of about six to eight people, and weekends there are about eight to 10 regulars,” said Jack Chen, 37, who was sitting on a bench next to his 1-and-a-half-year-old chocolate Labradoodle, Moose. Chen is one of the regulars, and shows up at 7 a.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. weekends to allow Moose to exercise off-leash for an hour with the other dogs. “Moose and I have visited all the other dog runs, and I feel strongly that there’s a need for one that is along the East River and below the Brooklyn Bridge.”

The Seaport and Financial District, with its rising population, is experiencing an influx of dog owners, causing those owners to search for a place to let their dogs run off-leash. The Seaport does have the Fishbridge run, located adjacent to the Brooklyn Bridge at Pearl and Dover Sts. But that’s a long walk for dog owners who live further Downtown, and for Amanda Byron Zink, who owns Tyras, a 150-pound Great Dane, it’s just not big enough.

“My dog literally takes up half of it,” joked Zink, who has lived in the Seaport for 11 years and who co-owns The Salty Paw, a dog accessory emporium and grooming spa, with three friends. “Every single day, someone was stopping me and asking where the dog run was. They all assumed that because ‘she’s got the big dog, she’ll know where the dog run is.’ ”

“When they finished Historic Front Street [two years ago], we were told 27 new dogs moved into that tiny little street, and 18 cats,” she said. “When I did a Google search, I found 10 new buildings that were finished or about to finish that were dog-friendly, within a four-block radius. The buildings brought in a whole new family of dogs and cats.”

Even today, Zink finds new visitors popping into The Salty Paw daily.

“I meet five or six new dogs a day that are moving into the neighborhood and I haven’t had a chance to reach out to yet,” she said.

All these new dogs needed a place to stretch their four legs. One day last fall, Zink met fellow dog owner and 14-year neighborhood resident Richard Horowitz, 64, with his 2-year-old Border Collie, Kit, in Fishbridge. The two started talking about the lack of dog runs on the East River, and what could be done to remedy the situation.

“This is New York City, if you don’t ask for it, you don’t get it,” Horowitz said. He gathered 175 signatures on a petition supporting the creation of a temporary dog run on the East River, and Zink set about opening up The Salty Paw to provide dog-related goods and services for the neighborhood. The Salty Paw recently celebrated its three-month anniversary on Peck Slip.

In October 2006, Horowitz formed the Coalition of Dog Owners / Lovers for a Dog Run and began petitioning Community Board 1 and the Economic Development Corporation to get both a temporary run and a plan for a permanent run to be incorporated into the E.D.C.’s East River Waterfront Park. He also teamed up with Chen, who maintains and updates the group’s blog at erdogs.blogspot.com.

The city’s E.D.C., which controls the land upon which the new East River Waterfront Park will be built, agreed at the beginning of July to provide a temporary run, pending approval by C.B. 1. On Tuesday, C.B. 1 approved the Coalition’s resolution asking E.D.C. for both a temporary and permanent run.

William Kelley, the E.D.C.’s project manager for the East River, said in an e-mail that he is not sure when the temporary run will go up, but “the actual construction should not take long given the simplicity of design and temporary nature.”

The Coalition proposed several sites along the East River, including sectioning off a part of Pier 16, which the dog owners are currently using unofficially; a spot underneath the F.D.R. Drive at Wall St., with an unused fire hydrant that could be hooked up to provide water pressure to clean the temporary dog run; and a barge similar to the one that was attached to the side of Pier 11, which serves commuter ferries. The E.D.C. is proposing a location under the F.D.R. Drive at Maiden Lane near Pier 15, where it would construct the approximately 45-foot-by-90-foot temporary dog run.

Horowitz said the temporary run will be an improvement but there are problems with the E.D.C.’s chosen location. He said the large plastic water tank the E.D.C. is going to provide has inadequate pressure to clean the dog run and, since both parties will be inspecting the run after a month or two of use, that it will be very difficult to maintain it up to standards.

“I’d say someone is setting us up for failure,” Horowitz said. “Some of us are grateful that they’re getting us a facility, but questioning why they’re putting us in a crowded corridor with all the merchandise vendors, where they’re going to begin construction first [on Pier 15], and where there’s not adequate pressurized water.”

But Kelley, of the E.D.C., said that construction plans don’t allow the temporary dog run to be located any place besides what has been proposed.

“Since there is no water source near the proposed location, the water tank is the only option available to provide water to clean the area,” Kelley said in an e-mail.

Zink, on the other hand, is very happy that things are moving so quickly with regards to getting a temporary run installed.

“I’m thrilled that this process I thought was going to take two years is happening so quickly,” she said.

Zink said even the best-trained dogs on Pier 16 will sometimes bolt, reminding her — and the other owners — what they’re fighting for.

“Every once in a while, a random dog catches a smell at the end of the pier and will charge toward it,” she laughed. “But [the dog owners] are like a family, so everyone goes running after it!”





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