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Dog Owners Blast Ticketing in Isham Park Amid Confusing Off-Leash Rules

By Nigel Chiwaya | September 24, 2013 12:35pm
  Dog owners say the tickets break an informal agreement allowing off leash use overnight in Isham Park.
Off Leash Rules Debated at Isham Park
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INWOOD — Isham Park's confusing off-leash rules are back in the spotlight again after a spate of dog owners have been given tickets by police while using the park.

The tickets have frustrated the owners, who say the city has gone back on its promise to allow off-leash dogs in the park during late night and early-morning hours.

"One of the joys of my morning was going to the park," said resident Renee Giles, who was ticketed in Isham Park in July. "Now I'm constantly doing a 360 see if there are any police."

"I should be able to go at 7:30 a.m. with my dog off leash," Giles added.

"People are warning you, saying 'watch out for the cops,'" added resident Sandra Thomas, who was walking with her dog in the park on Monday night. Thomas was ticketed for having her dog off-leash on nearby Isham Street in July.

Off-leash use at Isham Park has long been debated. Dog owners have asserted that there was a gentleman's agreement permitting off-leash use between the hours of 9 p.m. and 9 a.m. at the park, which matches a Parks Department rule that allows such use in parks where no dog runs are allowed. However police and Parks department officials deny that such an agreement exists.

"Dogs are not permitted to be off-leash at any time in Isham Park," Parks spokesman Phil Abramson told DNAinfo New York in August. "There are signs stating this."

Community Board 12 passed a resolution in April 2012 asking Parks to grant off-leash use in the Isham Park's southeastern section between the hours of 9 p.m. and 7:30 a.m., but Parks and Cultural Affairs Committee chair Harlan Pruden said that the board never heard a response from Parks.

Department representative Jennifer Hoppa told the committee that Parks decided against granting the off-leash hours, citing Isham Park's close proximity to the Homer's Dog Run in neighboring Inwood Hill Park.

"Really, parks never endorsed the 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. rule," Hoppa said at the committee's September meeting. "The commissioner said that since there's a dog run so nearby, all dog owners could congregate and have meetups and then walk down to the dog run together."

Hoppa added that problems appeared to occur during the morning hours, when Isham Park becomes a major thoroughfare for people cutting through from Park Terrace toward Broadway.

In response, the committee said it would consider passing another resolution asking for an off-leash exception between the hours of 9 p.m. and 1 a.m., saying that increased park use at night makes the entire area safer.

"Getting dog owners into the park past 9 p.m. is a great thing," Pruden said.