Construction of a voter-demanded dog run in East River State Park is being pushed back at least half a year after the city and state approved funding it without acknowledging that dogs are not allowed off-leash in state parks, if they are allowed at all.
Williamsburg residents picked the dog park as a funding priority during a so-called “participatory budgeting” session in 2013. Councilman Steve Levin (D–Williamsburg) signed off on allocating $450,000 to build it, and the state agreed to pitch in an additional $250,000, despite its own pooch prohibition. The city and state have now decided on a workaround, in which dog owners will enter the new dog park through neighboring, city-run Bushwick Inlet Park, keeping the canines from nosing around the rest of East River State Park.
An activist hailed the agreement, saying that the outcome is good for everyone.
“There was an incredible effort between the state and the city on this issue, and they are making all parties happy,” said Williamsburg activist Jackie Meyer, one of several locals who initially advocated for the dog run, and a member of Friends of East River State Park.
Meyer said she talked to state park officials before submitting the proposal, and that they assured her it would not be a problem even though they did not allow dogs.
Construction was originally supposed to begin this spring, but has been pushed back to at least the fall. Meyers and officials said the delay is because neighbors complained that there is too much foot traffic along Kent Avenue, and that a planned entrance there would have given dogs a chance to run away and get in fights. Levin and state park officials pulled in the city’s parks department and got it to agree to build the entrance in Bushwick Inlet Park.
Levin said the delay is worth it.
“There is a trade-off, because it is going to take a few more months, but this is what the community wants,” he said.
City park officials said the side entrance and dog run are totally aboveboard, which is hard to reconcile with the state’s prohibition on dogs in its parks.
One thing is for sure: dog owners are not complaining.
The dog run will be the first place that dog owners are allowed to have their pups off-leash on the entire Williamsburg and Greenpoint waterfront. The nearest dog run is in McCarren Park.
Greenpointers had asked the city to work a pooch play space into the planned Newtown Barge Park on Newtown Creek, but the city recently revealed it doesn’t intend to do so.