Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Dog Soccer

We were copied on this email, sent by a correspondent to Tupper Thomas, the Prospect Park Administrator, with copies to DOPR Commissioner Adrian Benepe, Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden, and Rev. Al Sharpton's organization:

Ms. Thomas,

I am writing to make you aware of an escalating problem of great consequence in Prospect Park. It is divisive, exclusionary and occurs under your watch every day of the week. At approximately 5:00pm, dog owners begin arriving at the Nethermead Meadow and unleash their dogs allowing them to run all over the field, regardless of any other activities that might be occurring. Some nights I've counted as many as 35 dogs running around the unenclosed meadow. The recently amended article 161.05 of the New York City Health Code states:

(b) (1) Dogs within areas and facilities under the jurisdiction and control of the Department of Parks and Recreation (“DOPR”), or successor agency, shall be restrained except as otherwise permitted in accordance with the rules of the DOPR. Such rules shall include provisions that prohibit unrestrained dogs in unenclosed DOPR controlled areas and facilities except during a specified range of time, that shall not begin earlier than 9:00 p.m. and not extend past 9:00 a.m.

I've spoken with dog owners about the fact that dogs should be leashed until 9:00 p.m. and have been meet with aggressive, threatening behavior. They have all told me that they have "special permission from Tupper Thomas to use the meadow after 5:00 p.m." More disturbing than their allegations that you would allow them to break the law, is the fact that their "special permission" appears to permit them to take over the field and exclude all other groups from using it. Which brings me to the most troubling aspect of this issue; The dog owners are exclusively affluent, caucasians from Park Slope. The groups of people who gather on the field to play soccer or any other activities are people of color from neighborhoods south and east of Prospect Park, not Park Slope. If the allegations are true, you have successfully enabled wealthy white people to chase people of color out of the park!

I find it difficult to believe that a high ranking employee of the Department of Parks and Recreation would actively promote such a racist, discriminatory policy. However, I witnessed the behavior of the dog owners, spoken with the people who are regularly the victims of this policy and watched Park Enforcement Patrol vehicles drive right passed the Nethermead Meadow and ignore the problem. This behavior is so outrageous that I have copied The National Action Network to ask their assistance in mitigating this problem. If these offleash scofflaws are acting with your blessings, I expect that the Commissioner of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, as well as, Commissioner Benepe from parks will see to it that this situation ends immediately. It is my hope that these people are merely lying about your complicity in this policy, in which case, I shall assume that you will ask the Park Enforcement Patrols to immediately begin patrolling the Nethermead Meadow and writing summonses to the dog owners that unleash their pets in Prospect Park at 5:00 p.m.

Thank you in advance for your prompt attention to this matter.

More Prospect Park loose dog sightings:

7:40 A.M.: large black dog heading up Wellhouse Drive to Peninsula dog run
7:50 A.M.: medium size brown dog heading the other direction

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