Public or Private: The fight over NYC’s Warren Street Dog Park

By Sassafras Lowrey, May 2018
photo via dogspin.com

photo via dogspin.com

The New York City Parks Department has cut locks off of The Warren Street Dog Park in the Tribeca neighborhood to keep a local group from making it a membership only dog run. For the last ten years a group of dog owners, who formed a nonprofit organization “Dog Owners of Tribeca” have privately maintained the park and charged membership dues. But much to the surprise of many neighborhood dog owners, the dog run was technically a public park! Dog Owners of Tribeca (the group who has disbanded since the city took control of the park) has maintained the dog run since 2008 instituted strict rules and behavior guidelines to keep the park safe for dogs (such as no children, or guests).

In a neighborhood publication Tribeca Citizen, Dog Owners of Tribeca justified their decision to privately manage the park:

“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.”

The Warren Street dog park also had pools for the dogs, as well as benches for the owners, all of which the Parks Department forced the community group to remove after the lock was cut because they were not officially issued by the parks department. There isn’t clarity at this time about how The Parks Department will be maintaining amenities in the park.

I have big concerns about a public park being closed off to the general public for the last decade, especially with how hard it is to find spaces for dogs to play here in NYC. However, I completely understand the desire for better cleaned, managed and maintained dog play spaces. It would be nice if a compromise could have been reached where community members capable of donating could to specifically support the maintenance of that park, and unsafe dogs kept out while somehow keeping the dog run open to the public regardless of ability to pay.

Sassafras Lowrey is a Certified Trick Dog Trainer, and assists with dog agility classes. Sassafras lives in Brooklyn.

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