Yesterday was hot. But it was nonetheless an important day for officials—representatives from New York state Parks, City Parks, Councilman Stephen Levin, and Assemblyman Joseph Lentol—to show up in thick sport coats at East River State Park. There were poodles and labradors and terriers who needed them: It was the ribbon cutting ceremony for a brand new dog run in the middle of the park.
Standing on top of a bed of pebbles that are hard for humans to walk on but that dogs seem to enjoy very much, Leslie Wright of New York State Parks looked out onto a crowd of dog owners, their barking pets, and stood behind a podium and a large green ribbon attached to nothing in particular. While humans sweated profusely, dogs seemed immune to the scourge. “We are here today to celebrate the long-awaited occasion of the opening of the dog run,” Wright began. Barks and applause followed.
This dog run had been in the works for years, the joint effort of local community members, the Bushwick Inlet Park, Wright’s office, Councilmember Levin, and more. “The dog run is a continuing evolution of this very special park,” said Wright, “a reclamation,” of sorts—historically of an old rail center, and, when it became a park, of where the spot where the maintenance crew’s trailer used to reside. “In this corner of East River State Park, we’ve come a long way,” Wright summarized.
On cue, one dog barked approval.
And at this dog run, Wright explained, they’re getting progressive: it will pilot a dog waste composting project. “We’re turning something that nobody wants—solid dog waste—into fertilizer,” said Right, reducing landfill and plastic bag refuse. Signage is placed throughout the dog run to instruct owners how to do it. Thousands of pounds of dog waste will be kept within the park to fertilize its gardens.
Normally, dogs are not allowed in State Parks. But North Brooklyn is so starved for open dog areas, that, in this case, State Parks was open to improvising with several groups to make one happen.
“The community knows better than we know as elected officials what great ideas there are for capital projects,” said Councilman Levin. “The community facilitated in a way that is progressive and inclusionary”—through process called participatory budgeting—”and in a way that empowers the public.”
Which has been especially important when it comes to East River State Park. Assemblyman Lentol explained that, originally, New York University was supposed to develop the park but, for reasons he said he did not want to get into, they dropped out last minute and, afterward, the State was left to its own devices (and far less money) to turn it from a barren waterside plot into one of seven state parks that gets 1 million visitors annually. In a moment of stellar pun-making, Lentol summarized of the slow process, “This place has really gone to the dogs.”
But now things are looking up. “I just want you to know that I’m happy as a dog owner, and look forward” he said, to bringing his “wonderful Dutch Shepherd” to the new dog run. “This place is wonderfully designed.”
The dogs seemed to agree. At least a dozen of all shapes and breeds and sizes were off leash, nuzzling each other and random people; most from the latter group sat lethargically on shaded benches.
Finally, at the same time, Wright, Lentol, Levin, and the park manager cut the same green ribbon with oversized scissors. Baha Men’s “Who Let The Dogs Out” blasted out of speakers, and the dogs, rightfully and finally, all went wild.
Photos by #1 dog lover, Jane Bruce.