Hi! My name is Keith, and I'll be your host during your stay here at the site for the West Chelsea Dog Owners Group. This site has languished a bit, hasn't been updated in far longer than I had expected, and I'd like to explain. A couple of things have transpired and, if you're already starting to get that feeling, it's sad news. When I first started keeping this website, I had two dogs. I had a wonderful Pug, who some of you may remember, named Antonia. And I had a beautiful Basenji named Djuna, who is pictured elsewhere on this site, who was quite a knucklehead. I now have neither. Antonia died in the Fall of 2001, and Djuna just passed away a few months ago (Fall 2002). These losses have left me dogless and a bit lost. So coming to my own website here makes me a bit melancholy. But, you know what? I love dogs. I always have, and always will. I do intend to keep working on this stuff, but I have also started a new consulting business and have become the treasurer of my church, and so have been quite occupied of late. I hope that during the months ahead, I'll be able to update the site again so that the information will be more useful for today. And by the way, for those who have called it out, the location of the dog park is Eleventh Avenue at 22nd Street! It does say this somewhere in here, but here it is. It's in the new triangular park alongside the West Side Highway (not an ideal location, granted, but not as unworkable as you might at first think), where 23rd Street ends. It's open from 7am until 1am. ''They snore, they shed, they drool. That's why we love them!''
So began the brief speech given by City Council Member and candidate for Brooklyn Borough President, Kenneth Fisher, at the first NYCDOG hosted Rally in support of additional funding and legislation for off-leash dog play areas in New York City, which took place today, August 25, at James' Dog Run, in Madison Square. Ken, the owner of two Clumber Spaniels (2nd picture foreground), appeared to be the only elected official in attendance. Additional dignitaries, however, included Mr. Henry Stern, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, and members of NYCDOG and representatives of other dog owner groups from around the city, at least one from 108th Street on the West Side, and several from Brooklyn. Overall, the rally was a success, in terms of conveying to candidates for public office who were there or who will hear about it that the issues of dog ownership and recreation are indeed emerging as a plank which needs to be added to their platforms if they wish to maximize their share of the votes this fall. Though there were fewer in attendance than some of us expected, there were a number of photographers and videographers (is that a word?) present, which should help to get the word out. Are we ready to join NYCDOG?
It occurs to me that we are perhaps now in the position to become a member organization of NYCDOG - the New York Council Of Dog Owner Groups. Here are some thoughts which can direct our decision on whether we want to or are ready to do this or not. According to their website, ''We are dedicated to improving our communities by promoting the establishment and maintenance of humane off leash recreation opportunities, responsible dog ownership and respectful park stewardship.'' Sounds good. The only real requirement they have of member organizations is that they have at least 25 members, that they represent a specific space not already represented in NYCDOG, and that they attend meetings (at least two, to start, to become a member org). Probably best to visit their website, and look specifically at the page pertaining to becoming a member: http://www.nycdog.org/us.html. So the question is, are we ready to do this? Do we have 25 people who are willing and ready to consider themselves members? I'll begin compiling a directory of members, and we'll see! If you're interested, please fill out this membership form. Please be sure to include at least your name and address, but feel free to include as much additional information as you wish so that we may know you and your dog(s) better! There's a space for comments there too, but if you're just sending a comment, please use the email link above or below. Thanks! Once we have at least 25 names in our directory, we'll see who we can nominate to be our representatives to attend the NYCDOG meetings. Our membership in NYCDOG will help dog owners citywide by increasing the strength of our collective voice. Please send any questions or comments to me at email@example.com. Thanks! Status as of August 2001
The dog run has been open for a little less than a year, and it's become quite the popular spot with canines in the now fashionable West Chelsea (who knew?!). It's a pretty noisy location for a dog run, with the incessant heavy traffic from the highway whizzing by at speeds much faster than the Hudson River Park Trust promised when the park was in its planning stages. 'Oh, it'll be more like a boulevard when we're finished!,' they said. To which I say, 'Yeah, right!' But still, it's the only one we've got, and everyone seems to use it at least occasionally. In and of itself, it is a lot of fun. Some of you may not know that there is a new landscape architect involved with the project now. Her name is Donna Walcavage, and it's her [perhaps unenviable!] job to make the park more fully functional after the flight of fancy exercised by the conceiving architect, Tom Balsley. Don't get me wrong, I personally like what Tom did, given the 'peculiar' constraints he was handed by the land owners. Specifically, the requirement that a ball field be included seems particularly... let me get just the right word... stupid! But that's neither here nor there. The point is, Donna is on board, and in May (2001) I met with her, Robert Balachandran, president of Hudson River Park Trust, and Mark Boddewyn, also of HRPT. During that meeting, I made them aware of the following several issues, which I had solicited from other people using the dog run: o The mounds are a point of controversy. More people have told me that they
like them than not, but they are still being criticized by some. No
immediate action is planned, but the issue has been noted.
o The benches at the end provide a leap-frog platform for some dogs to jump
the fence. The benches may be relocated if this continues to be a problem.
o There is a gap in the fence along the highway where a tree is in the line
of the fence. This is to be fixed, but a new section of fencing has to be
designed to go around the tree. I don't have a time frame on this, but
they've meanwhile put additional temporary barriers in place.
o The park's perimeter lighting is not all coming on at night. Of the six
park lamps surrounding the park, two are not functional. This was
supposedly going to be fixed within weeks but I see that it is still
not done. This will be re-introduced as an issue next time I speak with them.
o And finally, my pet issue: the trees. I've said to many people that we fought
to keep these trees in the dog run, they're very old, and we're not going
to lose them on my watch. The concentration of dogs constantly urinating on
them will not be a good thing for them. The little wicket fences put around
the trees were completely ridiculous, but the large crushed rock has helped.
It is possible that benches will be built in a sort of hexagonal shape
around each tree, to keep the dogs away (and to solve the problem of
the benches mentioned above), but that's just been jotted down for now.
No specific action has been determined yet. That's about it. There are some funding problems with the rest of the park, but next year they plan to install the playground equipment intended for the children's play area to the north of the dog run. A concession stand is also slated for that area, which will be helpful to all of us and will probably increase the utilization of the park as a whole. That's probably a good thing. 'New and Improved' Site for your Enjoyment!
The last time I told you I'd revised this site, you couldn't tell. It looked the same. The only differences were under the covers, in the construction of the site. That was supposed to allow me to keep the site up-to-date more easily. Well, that was the big plan. Reality, however, was that I haven't updated it since last winter! So this revision is long overdue. Now it truly does look different, and it should be even easier to maintain. Plus - and this is a mighty big plus! - it's got pictures now! Thanks to the wonder of digital cameras - even cheap ones like mine - it's super easy to add pictures to the page. I encourage anyone who has pictures, though, particularly of the dog run, or your dog in the dog run, to submit them for publishing on the site. If there's enough to warrant it, I think it'd be fun to have a rogue's gallery here on this site. If not, I can just set up sort of a rotation for pictures to be included along the side bar (as they are now). Submit any pictures (you'll have to scan them yourself, or use a digital camera; they'll have to be either jpg or gif images) to firstname.lastname@example.org For those of you who don't already know,
my beloved Pug, Antonia, is no longer with us. She succumbed to cancer after putting up a valiant fight for over a year. She had had four rounds of surgery to remove the mast cell tumors which had started to develop over the last year. She was a tough and strong-willed girl, and bounced back beautifully each time... except for the last one. She finally gave up the ghost four days after Christmas (2000). Djuna (my Basenji) and I still miss her a lot, of course, but we're happy to have each other. One dog run... 10,000 dogs?
I've been asked on more than one occasion how many dogs there are in Chelsea. I will go on record here and now as saying: I don't know! But earlier in this site I took a wild guess that there could be around 10,000. Unbelievable? I don't think so. That's the city's estimate of how many kids there are in the neighborhood, and I doubt that there are fewer dogs than kids. Furthermore, according to the website of the Center for Animal Care and Control, the CACC accepted 26,134 stray, abandoned and unwanted dogs last year (2000). Now that's city-wide, I understand. But these are unwanted animals. And this is just one year's number! Chelsea is a very heavily dog-populated area, and most of us love our dogs. So I don't think my numbers are out of range. But whether they are close or not, it's obvious to all of us that there's a need for additional dog run facilities in the area. The one we have, fun though it is, is not well situated, and is not big enough. We need more space. There is hope, I think. As you may know, the area to the north of the Chelsea Piers sports and recreation complex is the next section to be planned and designed in the Waterside Park. There will be a series of town meetings at which we'll all have an opportunity to make our voices heard. We are the residents of this place. Public land use is supposed to be for our benefit. I have attended a number of meetings over the years at which there were very few 'dog people' present. It just can't be like that going forward. The area we're talking about, including the piers, has lain dormant for many years. The decisions that are made now, the plans they come up with, will be with us for a good long time to come. Here's my real point. There is no 'ghost of Christmas future' to show us what our actions - or inaction - will lead to so that we can make corrections. On second thought, there is one, and it's me! Do not let this development occur without your input. If you think you're too busy to go to these meetings, let's compare schedules! We all make time for the things that are important to us. It's easy to talk. Talk is cheap. It's easy to have good ideas. Good ideas are a dime a dozen. What's hard is DOING SOMETHING. So please, if you won't do your part to find out about the meetings, and to go to them, and to make your voice heard by the people who are empowered to and obligated to respond, then please... PLEASE!... Do not talk to me after it's too late! You will not find a sympathetic listener!
Other old news
At the bottom of my dogrun-based email messages, I often include a 'signature' tag. That tag reads as follows:
o Always clean up after your dog!
When you walk around the city, you sometimes can't help but notice the forgotten populations. If you look closer, you see the discrepancy between who/what is really out there and who/what is being provided for. For years, the city - or rather its parks and public spaces - seems to have been designed as if there were no homeless people. No teenagers. No dogs. (It also seems to have been designed as if there were no buried communications, power cables, or sewer pipes, but that's a topic for another day!) I don't know why we seem to have difficulty accepting what's really there, and just dealing with things as they are. I guess we have a tradition of thinking that if we don't look at a particular ''situation,'' it'll go away. But these things don't go away... thank God! We don't want them to go away. We want to set things up so that they have a place, so that they fit in better, so that they are a reality, part of our daily flow, and are not a problem. Our Dog Park is unique, but not just because it looks different. It really is a ''first'' for the city. Not only is this the city's newest park, but our Dog Park represents the first time a dog play area has been designed into a city park from the outset. In that sense, it represents an acknowledgement, on the part of the city and the state, that dogs do exist, that there are a lot of them in this neighborhood, and that they need a place to call their own. So in a sense this is a new beginning. While some of us may wish that the end result were different - larger, no hills, different lighting, etc. - it is at least there. It's ours now. If changes need to be made, we've got a starting point, a point of departure. It's up to each one of us to step up to the plate when it's our turn to make that happen.
Parks Commissioner Henry Stern addresses the crowd at NYCDOG Rally at James' Dog Run in Madison Square.
And here's a crowd shot from the NYCDOG Rally at James' Dog Run.
Here's a picture of our park! A little hazy that day.
And here's another (not so great) picture of our park.
And here's the queen, Djuna, overseeing her domain.
Yes, that's me, working on the Tom's Dog Run site!
Obviously at peace with the Universe!