Splitting the Difference

Two City agencies that have separate jurisdiction over adjacent halves of the same plot of land in Tribeca have allowed a potentially unsafe condition to fester for several years, according to a recent discussion at Community Board 1 (CB1).

“The Parks Department called me back after a year,” Bob Townley said at the March 20 meeting CB1’s Waterfront, Parks, and Resiliency Committee. “They finally looked at the dog run, and now they’re going to meet with the dog run people.” This was a reference to the outdoor facility on Warren Street (between West and Greenwich Streets) where dogs are allowed to run free, behind a locked gate.

“As the committee remembers,” Mr. Townley continued, “the dog run has collapsed a few years ago, because it was never built right. There’s no drainage, because it wasn’t filled in properly. I’m afraid someday there’s going to be a sinkhole there.”

The Warren Street dog run occupies the southern half of a single lot that also borders Chambers Street, on its northern side. The uptown half is used for as a playground by P.S. 234, which is directly east of the lot.

“The Department of Education filled in half of it,” Mr. Townley continued. “Don’t get me started on government. The Department of Education, since they owned half the lot, fixed half of it, at a multi-million dollar cost. I show up one day and asked, ‘what the hell is this going on?’ And then they’re filling. They’re putting in retaining walls. But they did it on only half of the lot.”

The northern half of the same lot on Chambers Street, which is the site of a playground for P.S. 234. The City’s Department of Education made repairs to this section of the lot several years ago.

“And the Parks Department didn’t even know that they owned,” the southern half of the lot, which contains the dog run, Mr. Townley noted. This was what prompted Mr. Townley to begin calling that agency more than 12 months ago, to push for repairs at the dog run similar to those completed by the Department of Education in the adjacent playground several years earlier.

No schedule has yet been announced for repairs to the subsurface of the dog run. The belated realization by the Parks Department that the ground beneath the Warren Street dog run may need shoring up comes against the backdrop of an ongoing lawsuit (filed in 2016), in which the City is seeking damages from the developer and construction contractor who erected the 200 Chambers condominium building, which opened in 2007, claiming that sub-standard construction methods have caused subsidence at both the playground and the dog run.

At that point in the discussion, Committee member Marc Ameruso asked, “what was on that lot before?”

“It was always vacant,” Mr. Townley recalled. He added that the 200 Chambers Street condominium tower, which adjoins the lot containing the dog run and the playground, “was originally supposed to be built sheer to P.S. 234. But its wasn’t, because the dog people wanted the dog run and the parents wanted the playground.”

This prompted Committee chair Paul Goldstein to remember, “that was actually one of the most classic, passionate battles in the history of the Board that I recall. You had on the one side the parents of local children. And on the other side, the owners of dogs. And they were fighting over the same land.”

Mr. Townley recalled, “I felt like I needed a police escort to those meetings,” which took place in 2005.

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