UPPER MANHATTAN — A group of dog owners has petitioned the community board to push the Department of Parks & Recreation to formalize a nighttime off-leash policy in Isham Park.
Community Board 12’s Parks and Cultural Affairs committee passed a resolution asking the Parks Department to create a formal off-leash dog policy in Isham Park between 9 p.m. and 7:30 a.m.
The dog owners said they had been permitted to run their pups off-leash between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m. after hammering out an informal agreement with the department and community leaders back in 2009 after a spate of muggings and sexual attacks in and around Isham Park.
"Everything’s been done [on a] nudge-nudge, wink-wink basis and it should be more formal," Inwood dog owner James Morrissey said during the committee meeting.
Daniel Mercado, the parks administrator for Isham and Inwood Hill parks, told the group that he is opposed to the department’s 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. off-leash arrangement throughout the city.
Dog owners have said they are able to care for their pets on or off leashes. But Mercado said he's worried the off-leash policy could lead to dogs running into traffic, eating rat poison that's spread in the park — and leaving messes that owners may fail to pick up.
"I don’t think Isham Park has special dogs," he said. "Dogs are dogs."
Parks officials installed new signage alerting dog owners that their pets are not allowed off their leashes at any time in Isham Park after an off-leash dog in the park attacked a leashed dog last month.
The shift in policy has alarmed several residents and dog owners who say the department should not change a longstanding agreement with the community without its input.
More than 20 people attended the meeting Tuesday night to voice concerns about the policy change. No supporters of the off-leash ban attended the meeting.
"It works where we are and we don’t want an incident to scramble it up and create a new paradigm," Inwood resident George Brown said.
The committee’s resolution will go before the full board for a vote during CB12’s general board meeting on Tuesday, April 24.
The community board serves an advisory role, and the Parks commissioner has a final say in setting policy.