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Astoria's First Official Dog Run to Get $1M in Funds

By Jeanmarie Evelly | September 25, 2015 3:55pm | Updated on September 28, 2015 8:56am
 The project will rececive $500,000 from Costa Constantinides and $500,000 from the Borough President.
Astoria's Future Dog Run
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ASTORIA — Neighborhood dog owners and their pups will soon have a million-dollar space to play in.

Local lawmakers will allocate $1 million in budget funds to build the first city-run dog park in Astoria, converting one basketball court under the Triborough Bridge into a recreational space for pooches, officials said Friday.

The project was one of three winning proposals that residents voted for this spring during City Councilman Costa Constantinides' participatory budgeting, with 773 people voting to set aside $500,000 for the dog run. Queens Borough President Melinda Katz will kick in another $500,000 for the park.

"This really was a community-driven project," said Constantinides, who described how a group of local dog owners campaigned to get votes for the dog run, hanging up posters and knocking on doors. "The community voted for it, the community fought for it."

Local dog owners have been pushing for a new, modern dog park in the neighborhood for the last few years. There's currently only one privately-maintained dog run in the area, next to the East River by Astoria Park, though dog owners have long complained about its rundown condition.

"In Long Island City we have over three state-of-art dog runs, and they are immensely popular and very successful and the question was always asked, why doesn't Astoria have something similar?" said State Sen. Michael Gianaris, who represents the area.

The new run will be built on one-half of Triborough Lot C, located under the bridge at Hoyt Avenue North between 23rd and 24th streets. The other half of the lot will remain a basketball court, officials said.

Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski said the $1 million budget is not unusual for this kind of project, which poses some challenges including hooking it up to the water supply because it currently doesn't have access. 

Dog owners had wanted the dog run built near Astoria Park but not actually inside the park itself, since building one there would have ended to the park's popular early morning off-leash hours for dogs. 

The Parks Department said green spaces can either have a dog run or off-leash hours, but not both.

Lewandowski said construction on the new run is expected to begin in about a year and a half. First, the Parks Department will begin designing the space, which will include holding a scoping meeting to get input from the public on what they'd like to see.

Bill Peloquin, head of the Astoria Dog Owners Association and owner of a Welsh corgi named Murray, said his group would like the dog run to include separate sections for big and small dogs, a water fountain and a double-entry gate.

"The one that's down by the river doesn’t have that right now, and that's one of the major issues with it — that it's so easy for dogs to get out," he said.

Dog owner Michael McKinstry said it'd be fun to see the run have a small agility course for more active dogs.

"Just like little hurdles, things for them to jump over, tubes for them to dive through," he said. "It's nothing very extreme but it's good for them to have."

He currently brings his two dogs, Eros and Persy, to off-leash hours at Astoria Park from 6 to 9 a.m. where he says the dog owners are a friendly, tight-knit group who trade tips and advice.

"It's really great to have a place to come together," he said. "We're so fortunate to benefit from off-leash hours in the morning, but not everybody can make that, so this is great that other dog owners will have that same type of community."