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Gantry Park Tosses Dog Owners a Bone With All-Day Access for Pooches

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | August 20, 2012 8:49am

LONG ISLAND CITY — It’s barking news for LIC dogs!

Neighborhood pooches and their owners can now enjoy strolling along Pier 1 in Gantry Plaza State Park all day after the state Parks Department quietly revised its policy — a major victory for dog owners.

Previously, dog owners had been able to walk their pets on the pier, a popular area for dog-lovers, only from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Even though the other three piers and the rest of the state park remain “Dog free zones,” dog owners were ecstatic about the extended access to the waterfront on Pier 1.

“I love that,” said Cara Santamaria, 24, a nutritional counselor, and the owner of a pair of handsome dogs, Lenny (shiba inu) and Chip (shih tzu). “They love to be by the water.”

Neighborhood dog owners fought tooth and nail for the previous four-hour-a-day access period  since their pets had been forbidden from entering the park in 2009, when officials started enforcing a dog ban.

In March 2011, dogs were allowed back on Pier 1, but only for a few hours a day after a compromise between the state Parks Department and a group of dog owners, DOG LIC, which was backed by local politicians.

During an initial 6-month trial period, dogs had to be on their best behavior and owners were obliged to make sure that their four-legged friends were not a nuisance to other park goers.

The period was later extended, until a meeting Wednesday when parks officials told DOG LIC that they had passed the test and dogs would be allowed on Pier 1 during the hours the park is open to public.

Dan Keefe, a spokesman for the state parks department, said the decision was aimed to accommodate the needs of various park goers. A sign about hours restricting dogs was “sort of quietly removed” from Pier 1 this spring, he said.

"I am pleased our efforts to make Gantry State Park more pet-friendly, beginning with limited pier access last year, resulted in the decision to make one pier an open-access area all day," said state Sen. Michael Gianaris who has been involved in the efforts and also participated in Wednesday’s meeting.

"I congratulate the members of DOG LIC for this achievement and thank the State Parks Department for working with us to welcome our four-legged friends to this neighborhood gem.”

Perrin Salat of DOG LIC said in a phone interview on Friday that the group hopes in the future that all four of the park’s piers will be accessible to dogs.

“Keep up the good work, picking up the poop, and keep your fuzzy friends on their leash,” Salat, the proud owner of Remy, a French bulldog, wrote on the DOG LIC Facebook page.

“We went to the pier with Remy last night and it was wonderful,” he added.