“End Run” Around Leash Laws in City Parks: Not a Done Deal?


Originally uploaded by Gunni Cool.

Can it be true? By now, you’ve heard that New York City is about to do an “end run” around off-leash opponents and will “enshrine in law a two-decade-old unofficial policy that has allowed Lassie, Rusty and Sparky to roam free in city parks” for very limited hours [See “Dogs Win! Off-Leash Hours Survive”].

Not necessarily so, says Prospect Park Advocate, a blog that seems to be spearheading the anti-anti-leash-law movement: he says the author of that article, Dana Rubinstein, “is either another example of a journalist making up facts to suit a hidden agenda or she is just an outright liar.”

He quotes a letter from Bob Holden (president of a Queens civic association that sued to end the unofficial “policy” of looking the other way during off-leash hours) saying that many people “don’t believe the city can or even will (make off-leash legal) … Parks attorney, Paula Van Meter, when backed in the corner by the judge, blurted out at the city will ATTEMPT to clarify the commissioner’s authority to allow dogs off-leash in parks. The judge was grilling her on how can a commissioner give himself the authority to tell people they can violate a law.”

Not familiar with off-leash? Go to Prospect Park in the early morning hours and witness the teeming mass of dogmanity. Whether you think it’s dangerous or not… You may never walk barefoot on the lawn again.

Rockhound backs up ParkAdvocate on this Park Slope thread: “Dana Rubenstein was not telling the truth when she proclaimed off leash hours to be safe…. Hullo, I don’t know how ‘benign’ it is to allow your dogs to menace your fellow park goers and leave poo all over the place. I have been cornered by two huge growling hair-bristled off leash mutts and the owner didn’t give a rip.”

“It was terrifying, just like being mugged — but wouldn’t have qualified as an “attack” because no blood was drawn (true of many muggings as well!). Off leash dogs can be frightening, and intimidating other park visitors is not a “benign activity”.

Whatever the truth is… these off-leash advocates seem to have their act together. Go read what they have to say, and if you agree with them Here’s the petition.

Park Advocate has his say on the Park Slope Message Board
Time Out New York: Off-Leash Poll

13 Replies to ““End Run” Around Leash Laws in City Parks: Not a Done Deal?”

  1. The Prospect Park “Advocate” is none of the sort. He’s an advocate, but for his own narrow interests with how HE wants to use Prospect Park.

    Apparently the “Advocate” doesn’t think that the thousands of people who take advantage of the 20-year offleash hours policy each week in Prospect Park and the tens of thousands who use Offleash Hours in other City parks such as Central, Ft. Greene, Cadman Plaza, Marine Park, are entitled to use the parks as they have for many years–despite the fact that dog owners are the largest use-specific group who go to parks every day of the year, in all weather.

    Repeatedly, Parks commissioners and administrators (including Tupper Thomas of Prospect Park, see Daily News article here: http://www.fidobrooklyn.com/features/dailynews_9-29-05.html ) have credited dog owners who use Offleash Hours with helping to bring Prospect Park from its state of decline, violence and crime of years past. This clearly has benefited all New Yorkers. Anyone who’s lived in Bklyn for more than 15 years remembers that Prospect Park used to be a scary place that few people used because it was too dangerous, filled with drug dealers, muggers, prostitutes, and vandals. Apparently now that the Parks are safe again, it’s time to kick out the usergroup partially responsible for reclaiming parks, right Mr. “Advocate”?

    The recent TimeOut NY poll (on the newsstands today 9/15/06) clearly show that the “Advocate” and his ilk (the “Advocate” has lately become the proxy mouthpiece for the infamous Juniper Park Civic Association–the unelected private organization in Middle Village Queens that has brought the lawsuit seeking to end Offleash Hours) are a distinct minority with a whopping 81% of those responding supporting offleash hours (despite a poorly worded survey question that characterized offleash as dogs running “wild” in parks). The anti-offleash people are trying to paint the Offleash Hours supporters as a minority. Who’s the minority Mr. “Advocate”? with only 19% of the poll.

    We live in a crowded city with limited resources. It’s important that we all share those resources in a responsible manner. For the past 20 years, the Health Dept and the Parks Department, and every administration have recognized the legitimate needs of the half million dog owners of NYC to socialize and exercize their dogs. This policy benefits all New Yorkers with record historically low reported dog bites, calmer, less aggressive dogs when onleash.

    For more info, visit http://www.nycoffleash.com and please sign the online petition.

  2. The hostility of the “pro-off leash” comment is unfortunate. It is this type of knee-jerk response that impedes actual dialog on this issue. I have lived in the PP area for 25 years, and for 13 years have owned a dog. I am in favor of enforcement of the law requiring dogs to be leashed, rather than running wild in the park (and if you don’t think that’s what’s happening, well ask an early morning jogger, biker, runner, ball player). Prospect Park is large, and there is ample room to create enclosed dog runs. In fact, dogs are supposedly restricted to specific areas and times now, by “unofficial policy” but this is not enforced. Dog owners with off leash dogs in protected areas, and after hours, typically respond with sarcasm and hostility when asked to obey the posted rules. The off leash situation in the Park, especially on warm weekend mornings, quite simply blocks other users from enjoying the park at those times. Not only is this unlawful, but as a policy matter seems wholly unacceptable. I am far more likely to be attacked by a dog than a mugger in Prospect Park. I don’t consider that to be progress.

  3. I was surprised by the claim that the “off leash” movement has support in many states, so I followed the link provided. Not that surprisingly, I found that the truth is slightly different. I did not click on every park listed, but simply clicked randomly, to try to find ANY major city park that allowed dogs off leash throughout the park. I didn’t find a single hit. Some allowed dogs off leash in what are clearly dog runs. Some were described as “dog parks” obviously created for dogs to run. OK, so perhaps that’s a good idea, but Prospect Park is a 500 acre metropolitan park, NOT a dog run. (except between 9pm and 9am).

  4. I find the claim made by Tupper Thomas and the community of dog owners that the prescence of dogs has made our city parks safer rather perplexing. Wasn’t that supposed to be the job of our law enforcement officers?

    I’ve watched the quality of life decline in Sunset Park for the past 14 years. Law enforcement seems reluctant to exercise its legitimate authority if people might become upset. In fact, a young woman at the 72nd precinct told me that the police stopped issuing summonses for double parking because ‘people don’t like getting tickets’! It seems the dog owners fall into that category, too.

    I see the trend in not enforcing laws concerning our quality of life as disturbing. Too many Americans have the naive belief that freedom means ‘doing whatever I please’. That is not true now, nor has it ever been.

    It is true that we live in a large city with limited resources. Than why are people allowed to purhase pets that can’t be cared for properly? It certainly is not the responsibility of the rest of the park- goers to accomadate this one group. The same would apply to double-parking, loud car stereos, and the ever-annoying car alarm. Why aren’t sales of these items (especially large dogs) regulated?

    We should support law enforcement in our public places and stop worrying about how lawbreakers ‘feel’ about being ticketed or arrested. Even a drug dealer ‘feels’ wronged by the police.

  5. It doesn’t surprise me that an off-leash advocate quoted the results of a poll that was designed to create bias. Read my letter to the editors:


    Also, to sign a petition to enforce the leash law go here:


    If and when the “threatened” law change reaches the point of public comment I think we’ll see what New Yorkers really believe.

  6. Michael
    I detest baseball and football so why should my tax dollars support their large, underused, expensive to maintain fields?

    I do not have children but my tax dollars support schools.

    I could go on. The essence is that society makes compromises and allowances to others. I gladly pay for schools and I even swallow the expenditure of one billion to pay for stadiums for spoiled, overpaid athletes and team owners.

    Dog owners are asking for limited, shared use of parklands. It is no different than runners, bikers, ballplayers, etc.

    Dogs do well in urban environments. There are 1.4 million dogs in NYC alone. Surely a little accommodation is warranted.

    Those who think off-leash is merely for spoiled white folks in Central and Prospect Parks are sadly mistaken. This policy helps all groups and costs little to regulate so it is income neutral.

  7. Readers might find it interesting that the “Advocate” did not criticize the TimeOut NY poll when it first was published at the end of August. (the results of which published Sept 14th showed that a landslide 81% responding support continuation of the 20-year Offleash Hours policy.)

    In fact, the “Advocate” wrote about the TimeOut poll on his blog when the poll first came out (I’ll paste it at the bottom of this message in case Mr. Advocate pulls it off his blog after reading this).

    Interesting that the “Advocate” didn’t critize the TimeOut Poll when he first publicized it on his blog. In fact, he even provided a link to vote in the poll (presumably for his position against Offleash Hours).

    It’s only two weeks later AFTER the results were published (showing that an underwhelming 19% of respondants agree with his position) that the “Advocate” began to complain that the TimeOut poll wording was biased against his crusade to end Offleash Hours.

    Alas, though he refuses to believe that a large majority of New Yorkers support the current 20-year Parks policy, this inconvenient truth isn’t stopping the Advocate from continuing his campaign of minsinformation, hyperbole, and outright deception from his own pen and that of the infamous Juniper Park Civic Association in Queens (the civic that’s seeking to end Offleash Hours citywide).

    For those wishing to learn why Offleash Hours has been a successful 20-year NYC Park policy, please visit http://www.nycoffleash.com

    Please sign the online petition to support continuation of Offleash Hours.

    Just in case he deletes the evidence from his blog, here’s what the “Advocate” posted to on Sept 1:

    Poll on off-leash hours
    Time Out New York publishes the results of their polls every week.

    -Click for Leash Law Poll-

  8. NYCOffleash wrote “thousands of people who take advantage of the 20-year offleash hours policy each week in Prospect Park and the tens of thousands who use Offleash Hours in other City parks such as Central, Ft. Greene, Cadman Plaza, Marine Park”. I’d be curious to know how he or she came up with those statistics. Did they just make them up like Tupper Thomas?

    According to parks department statistics 25 million visit Central Park each year; 6 million visit Prospect Park. Let’s give nycoffleash the benefit of the doubt and estimate that 50 thousand people want to run their dogs unleashed in the parks. That comes out to a bit less than 0.16 percent of park users. Should that number of New Yorkers really be able to dictate a policy with such negative ramifications?

  9. As Disraeli said, “Lies, damn lies, and statistics.”

    Compare apples with apples, Mr. “Advocate”. If you’re mentioning numbers of visits per year in parks, those are discreet visits. Yet, one person can have many discreet visits.

    Considering that most people walk their dog every day of the year, many people who walk their dogs each visit the park hundreds of times a year.

    I visit the park near me for both offleash and a dog park 2-3x A DAY. I’m in a New York City park conservatively over 700x a year. The official park figures you quote would say so. So recalculate your statistics, Mr. “Advocate”.

    I know that the JPCA is trying to pursue the strategy of trying to paint Offleash Hours users as a small minority, and you’ve also jumped on that bandwagon, since you’ve lately become their web proxy mouthpiece–but it will fail. The tens of thousands of paper petition signatures we have from park users (shown at the Aug. 29 courthouse press conference) belie that fallacy. But keep saying it over and over again. Maybe someone will believe you.

    Like so much of your “blog”, you misrepresent facts, print half truths, and flatly deny reality. So, you don’t like Tupper Thomas’ pronouncement that dog owners have helped save Prospect Park? So now she’s crazy too, huh, just like you call Commissioner Benepe “insane” on one of your recent screeds? Any one else you’re going to badmouth because their expert opinions don’t fit into your worldview? How about the Assistant Commissioner of Health, who filed an affadavit in the current lawsuit that your buddies at the JPCA have “unleashed?” The assistant commissioner believes that Offleash Hours should be preserved because it’s a good public policy. Is his expert opinon also “insane”? Is he a “liar” as you’ve called other such a journalists?

    Any parks administrator will tell you that dog owners are the single largest use-specific group in the City. Oh, but I see you willfully choose not to listen to Park administrators like Tupper Thomas, who is one of the great public servants of our era.

    Paradoxically, we do share one belief in common. Like you, the vast majority of folks who use the park Offleash Hours hate to see anyone disobeying the rules or behaving irresponsibly. The entire thrust of FIDO, Ft. Greene PUPS, Central Park PAWS, and NYCdog.org is responsible dog ownership.

    Our remedy for the people who violate the law is to have stronger enforcement of the law. Your solution is to ban the park activity altogether–the baby with the bathwater approach.

    The sweet irony of this battle is that folks like you and the JPCA have done more to rally people who use and/or support Offleash Hours than anything else has ever done. Your selfishness about not sharing park resources and the meanspiritedness you’ve exhibited will help to enshrine Offleash Hours for many generations to come.

    For those interested in learning about the successful 20-year Offleash Hours policy, and its benefit as a public policy, please visit NYCoffleash.com

  10. I’m sorry, please forgive me, but since dogs are so well-behaved then why have a leash law at all? I mean, if they don’t misbehave between 9pm and 9am, then why not let them off their leashes for the other 12 hours of the day?

  11. Having looked at both nycoffleash.org and the Prospect Park Advocate websites, it strikes me as odd that while the offleash site simply presents their point of view, the Advocate site, quoting Juniper Park Civic Association leader Bob Holden, calls people who disagree “insane” (Commissioner Benepe) “liar” (Dana Rubenstein of the Brooklyn Papers) or just incompetent (Tupper Thomas, adminstrator or Prospect Park). My goodness! How does the City survive with such gross ineptitude?

  12. Well, it looks like all the nonesense about the Off-leash Hours being “illegal” was, at the end of the day, completely wrong, and just so much misinformation and wishful thinking by the fringe anti-offleash jihadists.

    You can read NYS Supreme Court Justic Peter J. Kelly’s ruling here: http://www.nycoffleash.com/html/files/Decision.pdf

    To further eliminate the possibility of other specious and frivilous lawsuits in the future, the NYC Health Board unanimously amended the Health Code to eliminate any chance for the anti-offleash contingent to continue to claim this policy is not legal. Info can be found here: http://www.nycoffleash.com/html/threat.htm

    See y’all in the park! šŸ™‚

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