FINANCIAL DISTRICT — This puppy playground has gone to the dogs.
The new East River dog run has once again become a palace of poop after being turned over recently to the Parks Department, raising fears that pooches playing there will get sick, worried owners said this week.
Downtown dog owners first raised concerns about the cleanliness of the 4,300-square-foot oval dog run at Wall and South streets shortly after it opened last summer and, in response, the city Economic Development Corp. sent workers to power wash it twice-a-day and monitor it whenever it was open.
But on June 1, the EDC turned the dog run over to the city Parks Department, and Parks has cut back on maintenance, hosing down the run only infrequently, dog owners said.
"It's filthy again," said Krista Martino, 60, a Financial District resident who walks dogs. "The stench of urine is horrendous. [It] could knock your socks off."
Several people who use the run regularly said it appeared that no one was cleaning it at all during the first week of June, and the previously pristine pavement soon was coated in dog excrement.
"It was definitely getting a lot dirtier," said Jon Zornow, 25, who lives nearby and frequently brings Zam, his lab-dachshund mix, to the park. "There was s--t everywhere. They were coming to empty the garbage but they weren't doing anything else."
And Debbie Weiss, 46, a Peck Slip resident, said her Havanese poodle, Amelia, got sick recently after playing in the dirty run.
"It's disgusting — there's crap all over," she said. "It's a shame because it's a great [dog run]. It was really well taken care of."
Vickie Karp, a spokeswoman for the Parks Department, said the city cleans all dog runs daily, including the one on South Street. But she added that dog owners are also responsible for keeping the space clean.
"We wash down the dog run once a day and pick up the [trash] cans," Karp said Tuesday. "The dog waste rule [requiring owners to pick up after their pets] applies in the run as it does on the streets and also in all other dog runs in the city."
A spokeswoman for the EDC, which built the run, said the agency had always intended to turn the space over to the Parks Department to maintain it once it was complete.
Several dog owners and walkers said Tuesday that they do their best to keep the run clean, picking up the dog droppings and cigarette butts other owners leave behind.
"People should be cleaning," said Maricela P. Landa, 53, a dog walker who lives in Hell's Kitchen and brought two dogs to the park Tuesday afternoon. "It's important…to help keep the dogs healthy."
Others said the run is particularly difficult to clean because of its nooks and crannies. The whimsical space features giant sculptures of a squirrel and a dog bone, an oversized dog house and a splash fountain.
Janet Carhuayano, manager of The Salty Paw pet spa on Peck Slip, said she heard from several customers recently that the dog run is so dirty it is becoming unsafe for pets.
Carhuayano believes the busy run needs to be washed at least twice a day if it's going to stay clean, and she is surprised the city isn't doing more to maintain it, especially after spending $165 million on the new East River Waterfront esplanade that includes the run.
"It's going to make everything around the area smell if it's not sanitized," Carhuayano said. "It's unbelievable they would just let it stink."