TURTLE BAY — The ubiquitous “curb your dog” signs buried in planters and nailed onto the sides of buildings all over Manhattan have long been a call to dog owners to keep their pets — and their mess — far away from their two-legged neighbors.
The request is sometimes polite, with a “please” thrown in here or there. More often it’s blunt, consisting of no more than those three simple words.
But for some building owners, the sign aren't enough. More inventive and persuasive methods of keeping sidewalks clean are being deployed around town.
One sign, in front of 439 E. 51st Street, defines the phrase to avoid any possibility for confusion or misunderstanding.
"'Curb your dog’ means not on flowers or sidewalk," the sign reads.
Another plaque in the same planter offers an additional call to curb the dog. Still, a doorman on duty, who declined to give his name, said people don’t respect the requests.
He said he’s seen several residents try to reason with offending dog owners. And one tenant has filed reports to 311 about the issue.
Maybe the problem is in their approach. The doorman said he previously worked for a building on Fifth Avenue that sprayed ammonia around its planters.
“Yeah, actually that did work,” he said.
The issue is about more than just protecting shoes and stroller wheels. Donald Bransky, owner of Sunshine Florist on First Avenue and East 52nd Street, said that dog urine is deadly to plants.
“In an animal’s system, there’s acid, and acid doesn’t mix with plants,” he said.
Bransky, 83, has one of the more lush planters on the block. He said neighborhood dogs seem to prefer peeing on the corner of his building.
“That’s their area of expertise,” he joked.
But Bransky said that doesn’t bother him too much. He has been running the flower shop for 55 years, and the streets are much cleaner than they used to be.
“It’s really no big deal,” Bransky said. “It’s not an elephant. It’s just a dog.”
The threat to plant life was a particular issue for RiverTower Apartments, on East 54th Street between First Avenue and Sutton Place South.
Francisco Gomez, a doorman at the building, said that a few years ago, two trees along East 54th Street died.
Gomez, who has worked at the building for 24 years, said there was no way to prove that dog urine was at fault. But the general consensus held that urine was at least partly to blame.
Now, metal grates surround each tree in front of RiverTower. And the signs next to them read: “Please curb your dog! Dog urine will kill this tree.”
Down the street, at 50 Sutton Place South, the lush planters surrounding the building are dotted with signs that read “Please curb your dog. Area treated with pesticides.”
It seems like a friendly warning, and it may well be. But Mike Phelan, the building’s concierge, offered another possibility.
“That’s probably bogus. It’s probably used as a deterrent,” said Phelan, who has worked in the building for more than 25 years.
He said there are 47 dogs in his building alone, and many more walk through the neighborhood every day.
“Most everybody does what they’re supposed to do,” said Phelan, himself a dog owner.
But there are a few people who break the rules, he said, especially at night. Under cover of darkness, they’ll let their dogs into the plant beds “sort of to commune with nature,” he said. “But that’s not the place for it.”