BY SCOTT STIFFLER, with Interviews by LETISIA ROMERO & translation/transcription by VICTOR LUNA | March 1 events seemed to mark an end to the search for a suitable location at which to construct a Dog Run capable of absorbing the pent-up energy of pooches from Penn South, Elliott-Chelsea (NYCHA) Houses, and other parts of West Chelsea currently lacking a nearby location where four-legged creatures and their bipedal sidekicks can be with their own kind.
The long-sought Run will be a permanent facility, meant to replace the Penn South Park Dog Run. Created as a temporary resource to compensate for the loss of the Chelsea Waterside Park Dog Run during its now-complete, closed-for-upgrades phase, the Penn South Park Dog Run ran into unexpected opposition, when the hastily constructed, poorly vetted facility had nearby Penn South residents howling in protest, testifying repeatedly to CB4 that the unrelenting barking was a quality of life concern (one detractor characterizing it as “torture”).
Shortly after the Chelsea Waterside Park facility reopened, the Penn South facility (whose supporters were as vocal and passionate as the opposition) was closed by Parks, at the behest of CB4—whose promise to compensate for the loss seems to have come to fruition.
By voting on March 1 to accept, as is, a letter generated by CB4’s Waterfront, Parks & Environment (WPE) committee, the full board of CB4 essentially paved the way for Parks to repurpose half of the handball court space in Chelsea Park, turning it into a fenced-off area where Rovers can roam off-leash and burn away the calories accrued from doggie treats dished out by indulgent pet parents.(Click Here to view the WPE February 9 meeting and Click Here to view the March 1 full board meeting.) NOTE: See the (pun intended) tail end of this article for the two-page “Draft” version of the letter whose contents were approved at CB4’s March 1 full board meeting.
But not so fast, said several WPE members, at the February 9 committee meeting at which the abovementioned letter was generated. Concern was expressed that CB4 was moving too fast, paralleling the swift manner with which Parks constructed the ill-fated Penn South Park Dog Run. Might the Chelsea Park facility be vulnerable to the same type of noise concerns from nearby residents? Those folks would hail not from Penn South, but from Elliott-Chelsea Houses—a collection of NYCHA residences whose closest building to the proposed Chelsea Park facility—while in undeniable barking distance—does not share a Close Proximity Profile analogous to the shuttered Penn South Run.
Nevertheless, WPE members were correct to point out that NYCHA-residing stakeholders had not been formally informed or consulted—and no attempt by CB4 or Parks had been made to engage the Spanish-speaking population.
Chelsea Community News (CCNews) stepped up to address both of these concerns. Upon the recommendation of Darlene Waters, president of the Elliott-Chelsea Tenants Association, we contacted Elliott-Chelsea resident Letisia Romero, the owner of a small breed dog who had taken it upon herself to informally poll neighbors, regarding the proposed Chelsea Park Dog Run.
Drawing upon the budget from a 2022 West Side Community Fund grant that allowed us to initiate a long-planned Community Reporter Training Program, CCNews recruited Romero, asking her to again approach her neighbors—this time, for on-record comment. What appears below are transcripts from two incidents of outreach.
Q&A conducted by Letisia Romero on the morning of Wednesday, March 1. The respondents were:
–Chris, an Elliott-Chelsea Houses resident, and a dog owner
–Cretra J., an Elliott-Chelsea Houses resident, and a dog owner
–Cynthia Cote, a Chelsea resident
–Albert Agosto, a dog walker—and owner—who lives in Chelsea
Note: All four who were interviewed answered, “No” when Letisia asked, “Do you know a Dog Run might be built on the backside of the handball court?”
Letisia: What do you think about it?
Chris: It’s a great idea.
Cretra: They need a place to play that is in the community… I would like the Dog Run to offer some kind of play structure to keep them busy.
Cynthia: It’s a great idea because it would help build community, providing a network for dog owners.
Albert: It would be a great addition to our neighborhood, since they removed the Penn South Dog Park. It would be a great way for people to socialize and meet each other, especially to have people from the rest of the neighborhood come here and see that we are not so scary. Just because we are from the projects doesn’t mean we are scary people. Not all of our dogs are bad, either.
Letisia: Do you have any concerns?
Chris: Yes [it’s fine with me], as long as they keep out the pit bulls.
Cretra: My concern is mixing big dogs with smaller dogs, and how will that work. Another concern is people not monitoring their dogs while they play all of the time.
Cynthia: As the owner of an anxious dog, I would like to see a Dog Run that separates the outgoing, super playful dogs with the more anxious dogs.
Albert: I have had issues with people from the neighborhood because their dogs are unfriendly. If we do have a dog park here maybe a big and small dog separate dog park would be great. Just to have people check their dogs before they come in because we can’t have the same experiences everywhere and we don’t need a bad experience with the first time having a dog park in this neighborhood.
Note: The remaining content was the result of interviews conducted in the early evening of Tuesday, February 28, by Letisia Romero (with translation/transcription by Victor Luna when indicated), while knocking on doors at 426 West 27th Street, a building that is part of Elliott-Chelsea houses and in close proximity to the Dog Run’s proposed location.
Isabel Marini is a senior citizen who speaks Spanish only. Below finds the transcribed interview, in English, followed by the Spanish language original.
Letisia: How you do you feel about having a Dog Park [Dog Run] in Chelsea Park?
Isabel: I don’t have any problem with that. That’s fine, I have no issues with that.
Letisia: So you don’t have any negative concerns about the noise, or something else? Do you like dogs?
Isabel: I like them, I do. The thing is that I have a kid who is allergic…My daughter brought him one, but he can’t keep it. So he just pets them in the street. But I have no problem with that [Dog Run]. I’m not bothered at all, they’re animals [dogs], they’re living beings.
Victor: ¿Podemos incluir sus opiniones en el periodico?
Isabel Marini: ¿El nombre mío?
Letisia: Chelsea Community News, es un periodico de la comunidad.
Letisia: Como es tu nombre otra vez? Se me olvidó.
Isabel: Isabel Marini.
Letisia: Podemos grabar esto?
Letisia: Ok, vamos a coger la información
Isabel: Pueden pasar.
Letisia: Yo te voy a preguntar en inglés porque mi español está fatal. Como se siente acerca de tener un parque para perros en el parque de Chelsea?
Isabel: A mi no me molesta. Esta bien, sin problemas.
Letisia: Okay. Entonces no tiene nada negativo? Sobre el ruido, o nada? A ti te gustan los perros?
Isabel: A mi me gustan, de verdad. Lo que pasa es que yo tengo un niño enfermo y en la calle le encantan los perros pero aqui no porque la hija mia le trajo uno pero el no quiso. Entonces en la calle solo los toca.
Letisia: Okay entonces ella no tiene nada negativo que reportar.
Isabel: Pero no hay problema conmigo.
Letisia: Okay creo que seria todo si no tiene nada nada mas que agregar. Pues gracias, le vamos a preguntar a mas gente porque hay quienes no le gustan los perros o dicen que hacen mucho ruido.
Isabel: Ay no, a mi no me molesta, son animales, son seres vivos.
Victor: Okay gracias, linda noche.
Isabel: Si, que duerman bien.
Lamont R. is a man in his 50s who does not own a dog. He loves the idea of having a dog park, saying, “I don’t have any problems with it.”
Brandon Bermudez is a man in his 30s who does not own a dog and likes the idea of having a Dog Run.
Jessica Rodriguez is a woman in her 30s. She has two small dogs and loves the idea of having a Dog Run. She would love to have the small dogs separated from the larger ones. If not, maybe they can split the time in the park and have smaller dogs at a certain time and larger dogs at another time.
Unidentified is a woman in her 20s who did not wish to identify herself. She would love a Dog Run but does not feel safe to bring her small dog, because she’s afraid the big dogs may hurt her dog. (Before this statement, she was unaware the matter of a separate section for large dogs was being considered.)
Johnny R. is a man in his 50s who has a small dog and “would love” to see a Dog Run in Chelsea Park.
Elba is a senior who speaks Spanish. Below finds the transcribed interview followed by the Spanish language original.
Letisia: Elba, it’s me, Lety. I am helping Chelsea Community News. Community Board 4 and NYC Parks Department are talking about opening a Dog Run in the [Chelsea] Park.
Letisia: Yes, here on this street. How do you feel about that?
Elba: I don’t have dogs. But whoever does, they would [like a Dog Run].
Letisia: Do you think it is good?
Elba: Do you have dogs? So they can be trained and that.
Letisia: So you won’t be bothered by that?
Elba: I’m not bothered at all. What bothers to me, is hunger. (laughs)
Letisia: So can I quote that in the article?
Elba: Yes, that is ok. Doesn’t really matter to me, I don’t have any dogs, but whoever that have them, I hope they enjoy it.
Letisia: Elba, soy yo, Lety. Elba, estoy ayudando al periodico Chelsea Community News. Ellos quieren abrir un parque de perritos aquí en la 28.
Elba: Allá atrás?
Letisia: Si allá atrás, como tu te sientes de eso? Tu crees que es una cosa buena o no?
Elba: Yo no tengo perros pero el que quiera.
Letisia: Tu crees que es bueno?
Elba: Tu tienes perritos? Para que entrenen y eso.
Letisia: Entonces no te va a molestar?
Elba: A mi no me molesta. A mi lo que me molesta es el hambre.
Letisia: Entonces puedo poner eso en el periodico?
Elba: Si, que está bien. No importa, yo no tengo perros pero el que lo quiera tener que lo disfrute.
Letisia: Ok, gracias.
Victor: Gracias, bonita noche.
Artie R. is a Hispanic male in his 50s. He has a small dog and doesn’t mind the idea of having a Dog Run in Chelsea Park, saying it would “be nice.”
Carmen Decena is a woman in her 60s who owns a large dog. She said, “We need a Dog Run because I’m tired of watching dog owners in the community unleash their dogs to run around all of our parks.”
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