Splitting the Difference

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To the editor,

We appreciate your article this week titled “Splitting the Difference,”  (BroadsheetDAILY, April 9) though do wish you had reached out to us for comment as it inadvertently wound up missing a major element of the story.  We write today to ask you to expand upon the initial article in a subsequent piece.

The Warren Street Dog Park has always been operated by and for the community, without input or oversight from the NYC Parks Department. In fact, our non-profit community group Dog Owners of Tribeca, Inc. (“DOOT”) which currently operates the park was created years ago as a direct result of the Parks Department’s expressed disinterest in adequately maintaining the Park.

While the Parks Department did meet with us, “the dog run people,” recently, what’s missing is what else they did in the process: they effectively gutted the park as we know it.

For well over a decade, the Park has been insured, cleaned, repaired, outfitted, and maintained entirely by our community group, with zero contribution from the Parks Department, monetarily or otherwise. The result is a park that is power-washed 3x a week, exceptionally clean, and a model for others.  The expenses for doing so have always been 100% absorbed by the community that the park serves, and was achieved through a nominal $10/month membership fee.

Last week, after years of absenteeism and apathy, the Parks Department demanded that we immediately dismantle our existing membership-based program and take the keycode off the park’s door, while simultaneously refusing, at least initially, to bear any responsibility for the expenses or maintenance relating to the park moving forward.  In essence, we were instructed to continue funding the park and stripped of the tools to do so.  At the same time, the Parks Department in turn sought to impose their authority, without offering any accountability.

As stewards for the park, we pushed back and refused to do so unless Parks affirmatively accepts responsibility for the insurance, and expenses relating to services even as basic as garbage removal and maintenance.

Parks finally acquiesced, but has now come back and insisted that our organization remove all of the benches and pools in the park because they were not Parks Department-issued, without necessarily planning on replacing them.  The irony of course is that had Parks provided these items in the first place, our organization wouldn’t have had to.

No one wants repairs to the Western sinkhole in the park more than our organization does, but we are skeptical about the Parks Department’s ability to achieve this repair given their history with the property.  In light of their reluctance to provide even basic services for the Warren Street Dog Park moving forward, it would be naive to think that they will now achieve a million-dollar-plus repair with any expediency.  In fact, in the City’s ongoing lawsuit against the developer of 200 Chambers, it was our organization and not the Parks Department that the City Law Department consulted in filing their suit. Not once is the Parks Department even mentioned in their complaint, let alone a named party.  While the City is suing on behalf of their interests as the property owner, and the Parks Department is naturally an agency of the City, the level of dispassion on their part historically speaks volumes.  Our organization on the other hand is repeatedly referenced in the suit as the operator of the park, and we have long advocated on the park’s behalf toward achieving a repair.

Ultimately, we are amenable to the Parks Department’s newfound interest in taking over responsibility for the park, but the keyword here is “responsibility”.  What we cannot accept however is a scenario where the Parks Department strips the park down to nothing, as they’re suggesting doing, and leaving nothing in its wake.

Sincerely,

Board President Shirley Jaffe
Jared Sheer
THE BOARD of DOG OWNERS OF TRIBECA, INC.
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To the editor,
Thanks for writing about the dog run/children run “Splitting the Difference,”  (BroadsheetDAILY, April 9) a few issues ago.
However, the article is extracted from some of us, lightheartedly reliving the past in a discussion.  While the evolution of those spaces is relevant it also can give the reader the wrong impression as to what is currently happening.  One city wide newspaper called me and thought it was a huge blunder, a dangerous sink hole and a representation of all that is wrong with the City.  I told them not really the case.
First, for many years the children’s groups and the dog owners have worked cooperatively. In fact the bench the Parks Department wants to remove is mine taken from the historic Brighton Beach Baths in Brooklyn. It has been refurnished and brought back to its grand splendor.  The owners and doggies love it. Also, the dog owners meet in the Downtown Community Center. There is no quarreling .
Years ago I wanted to redo the space with a dog run atop and theatre and gym underneath.  I must have been dreaming when I learned the cost.
Second, the dog run is poorly designed and one end of it has collapsed. There is no water supplied in winter months and there is no drainage. I suspect when it was built no one considered its transition from a vacant lot to a dog run. Underneath the dog run is anybody’s guess and I would love to see what it is.
Currently water drains into the walls of the Downtown Community Center and over the years that can’t be good. That is why I am concerned about the sink hole right next to our community center. I seemed to be the only person concerned, but finally and thankfully the Parks department responded. In the summer, rodents can be seen using the collapsed area for a home. The fenced in area is dirty and off limits to the cleaners. A one-time clean up is not the answer but sure would be nice.
The School Construction Authority fixing half the space and The Parks Department leaving their space unrepaired is the most revealing part of the story.  Often we see jurisdictional inefficiencies between governmental entities.  Yet that is no excuse for proper coordination.
That’s the Story. If the dog owners and children’s groups can get along so can there be Peace in the Middle East.  Getting the Parks Department to the table is part of the solution. I will be updating everyone as the Parks Department has responded with some new rules for the dog run but were waiting on some solutions.
Bob Townley
Founder and Executive Director
Manhattan Youth

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