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Parents and Puppy Owners Take Their 'Turf War' to a Local Bar

By Meredith Hoffman | March 5, 2013 7:13am | Updated on March 6, 2013 9:31am

GREENPOINT — Parents and puppy owners who have spent months in a "turf war" over rights to their waterfront park are prepping for a heated clash Tuesday night at a local bar.

Parents lament that Transmitter Park — a rare East River-side green space that opened in August — has been usurped by unleashed, rowdy canines romping all over the lawn and threatening their kids' safety. But pet owners say their furry kids also deserve access to the rare public space, especially since northern Greenpoint lacks a dog run.

And now, the newly formed group Friends of Transmitter Park will take up the controversy at its first meeting Tuesday night at Red Star Bar.

"I'd like to get a good discussion going between dog owners and users of the park," said Kurt Cavanaugh of the Open Space Alliance for North Brooklyn park conservancy. "Transmitter Park's a new space and any new space has to work out its kinks."

For local parents like Crista Guiliani, the meeting is a chance to expose the misuse of the park by dog owners.

"People are definitely using the park as a dog run and that was not an intention...I'm a mother of two and I want to have a place where kids can play," she said.

"The last time I was in the playground there were two instances of poo. The Parks Department obviously spent a lot of money putting in the grass and dog owners are under the misconception that dogs can urinate and defecate on the lawn."

And Jane D'Arsenbourg, who has stopped taking her child to the park because she said dogs run rampant, hopes dog owners will realize they should seek out a dog run elsewhere in the neighborhood.

"I just don’t want my son to get bitten and there are not many places he can go to play," D'Arsenbourg said. "I hope something constructive comes out of [the meeting] and that people with dogs demand a dog park."

Devoted dog owner Danielle McGunagle said her hope would also be to have a dog run in the neighborhood, but she said that in the meantime, canines deserve access to Transmitter Park. And that parents were overreacting to the presence of dogs.

"Parents have given the impression that dog owners want to have wild packs running around the park at all hours of the day — how absurd?!" she said. "All we want is off-leash hours in the morning, like most other city parks, and to be able to walk our pups, leashed, through the park during the rest of the day."

She said that dogs in the area were at an unfair disadvantage, and that parents were unnecessarily fearful of them.

"You know, there are probably just as many adults who would prefer to have some of the park’s common space be a kid-free zone as there are parents who are hell-bent on ridding the park’s common spaces of dogs," she said. "But I mean seriously, who is scared by a 15-pound Westie?" 

A Parks Department representative said that they would enforce current policies at Transmitter Park.

"We will continue to enforce our policy of 'no dogs on the lawn' at Transmitter Park," the spokeswoman said. "The park’s design and size does not lend itself to a dog run, and while we are a dog-friendly agency, we also need to look out for the toddlers and young children who play on the lawn."  

Previously the representative said that dog runs were considered in each park based on community requests and funding.

Cavanaugh said he understood that the feud stemmed from the lack of a dog run in the area, but he emphasized that pet owners must still follow park rules.

"There are citywide rules for parks and I'd ask dog owners to obey leash rules," he said. "I wish I could snap my fingers and do a dog run but unfortunately I can't."

Friends of Transmitter Park meets Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at Red Star Bar, 37 Greenpoint Ave.