As of a 2012 analysis published on NYCEDC, Astoria has more pets than almost any other neighborhood, falling within the top bracket (see map below) at between 30,001 and 41,627 pets. Recent years have brought a pet (especially dog) boom to Astoria, and given our size and pet population, the resources available are far from adequate.
Astoria currently has three options for exercise and socialization for our dogs.
The first, walking on a leash, is not a practical solution for free play or socialization, and thus, two options have existed in our community for some time.
The first is Bugsy’s Dog Run. Located at the end of Astoria Park South, and adjacent to the park itself, Bugsy’s is not actual a part of Astoria Park, or Parks Department property. The lot is administered by the DEP, and is the location of an emergency run off/overflow drain, which transfers water from the street to the East River in the case of heavy rains. As a result of this purpose, DEP has authorized use of the lot for a dog run with the understanding that the property can be modified, dug up, or removed at any time. This makes it an illogical choice for a long term solution for our dogs. The run build on the property also has a host of maintenance and practical problems, including 1. The property frequently floods, resulting in large muddy puddles; 2. The lot is too small to build two runs, one for small and one for large dogs; 3. The current fence is both inadequate (is is low, and there are many holes), and unsafe (dogs have been caught and injured in the fence); 4. There is no fresh water source; 5. The gate is broken, allowing small dogs to escape; dogs also experience less anxiety entering a park when there is a double gate, which given the issues with the current fence and gate, is not easily possible without substantial work; and 6. The lot Bugsy’s sits on is slowly sliding into the East River, and the ground is eroded, resulting in large holes and rocks and pipes sticking out from the ground.
The second option available to Astoria’s dogs are off leash hours at Astoria Park. Off leash hours are immensely popular, and used by several committee members. However, they are inconvenient for many, and some fear letting their dogs off leash with no fence. While Astoria Park would be ideal for a dog run, building one would result in the elimination of off leash hours. Off leash hours fall under a grandfathered in program, and their elimination would mean they would be gone forever. For such a popular program, this is simply not an option for our community. Off leash hours are non-negotiable, and ADOA will not support building a run in a location that would result in losing this valuable (although often inconvenient) option.
We need more resources, not less.
By building a new run, in a new location, we would keep our off leash hours, and have two dog runs in Astoria (although Bugsy’s would remain in its present state, we would have a brand new and well maintained park). This is the solution that ADOA has fought for, and with your support, we have made significant progress.
In April of 2015, our dog run initiative won in the first District 22 Participatory Budgeting session. Later that year, additional funding was announced. And during the summer of 2016, the park design was released by the city after receiving approval from us and other stakeholders.We hope to break ground on the new park in mid-2017. And the best part of this is that the city does not plan to roll back current off-leash options for our dogs as a result of building the new park.