Dog Owners Spar with Local Residents Over Forest Hills Greenspace

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska on May 19, 2014 1:23pm 

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 Some residents complain about dogs barking at Yellowstone Park.
Forest Hills Dog Owners Advocate for Dog Run
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QUEENS — A dogfight is brewing between pooch lovers and some local residents over a patch of grass at Yellowstone Municipal Park.

A group of Forest Hills dog owners want a section of the park where they're currently allowed to let their pups off-leash each morning to be turned into a permanent dog run — but critics oppose the idea, saying that dog owners have already dominated that part of the greenspace.

At issue is the small portion of the park at Yellowstone Boulevard and 68th Road that currently serves as a designated off-leash area between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. Some dog owners want to see the space turned into an official dog run with double fences installed to keep the dogs safe and with the current tables removed to make more room.

“It would be wonderful to have this space dedicated for dogs, because the dogs love it, the dog owners love it, children love it, old folks love it, all people who walk by love it,” said Jody Berman, 51, a pre-school teacher, who comes to the area with her dog, Willow. “I think it brings joy to people.”

But not everyone agrees. Some residents who live nearby are opposed to the dog park, saying local dog owners have already taken over the area throughout the day, letting their animals bark until late hours.

“They close the gates and have the dogs just running around, barking,” said David Rankin, 40, a construction worker currently recuperating from a job-related accident. He said that one night last week, several dog owners stayed in the park until 10:30 p.m. and he had to go downstairs to ask them to leave.

“When I come home from work I just want to sit down and watch a little TV and I can’t now,” added his girlfriend, Sara Demartino, 32, a manager at a sports club.

Frank Gulluscio, district manager at Community Board 6, said his office has fielded multiple phone calls from people on both sides the issue.

The Parks Department has also received requests from local dog owners to create a dog run in the park, according to a spokesman for the agency. But while the Parks Dept. has allowed dogs to be off their leashes before 9 a.m. for several years, it's unlikely that the agency will grant the request, officials said.

“Yellowstone Park does not have the space to accommodate a dog run,” the spokesman said in an email Friday. He added that the dog owners can use instead nearby Underbridge Dog Run, located at 64th Avenue and the Grand Central Parkway service road.

But the dog owners said that that dog run, located about 10 blocks away, is too far.

“I like this one because the people are friendly and it’s very convenient,” Berman said. “It’s part of the neighborhood, I think it should thrive and we will all take care of it, if it becomes our place.”

The dog owners also said that local residents who live in the area should expect some level of noise.

“This is a noisy spot to be in as it is,” Berman said. "There are also cars honking, children playing, people playing music, we are not in the middle of the country.” 

Some parents who bring their children to the nearby playground said that they support the dog owners.

“My daughter really likes watching the dogs,” said Nadia Fedosova, 31, who comes to the playground every day with her 14-month-old daughter, Laura.

Michael Cohen, a spokesman for local Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz, said the councilwoman will assess the situation. "And then we will see if we can get the two parties to sit down and work out some sort of agreement,” he said.

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