Friday, May 9, 2008

Help Wanted

Dear Reader:

We need your help. As we’ve reported here before, in late afternoon and early evening, 7 days a week but particularly weekends, unleashed dogs and their owners gather illegally on the Nethermead and displace the soccer players who are there legally. Over the next two weeks, we would like to make a concerted effort to report this illegal dog activity to the City using 311, and to do that we need your help. If you are in Prospect Park during these times, please go to the Nethermead with a PDA or pencil and paper; and if you see unleashed dogs, please do the following:

(1) Call 311;

(2) Tell the operator that you would like to file a complaint about illegally unleashed dogs (the operator should respond, after looking it up, “I can help you with that”;

(3) Tell the operator that there are unleashed dogs in Prospect Park, on the Nethermead, and how many you observe. In the process you may have to answer a bunch of stupid questions, like Prospect Park’s address. It is frustrating but do not hang up; make sure at some point the operator gets down the location and number of unleashed dogs, and that this is a chronic problem, as in every day.

(4) When the operator asks your name, you may say that you wish to remain anonymous.

(5) Stay on line to receive a complaint number. VERY IMPORTANT: jot down the complaint number, the number of dogs you saw, and the time of day, and send this information to us in a comment to this post.

You will be told that this information will be forwarded for action to the Department of Parks. We are reasonably certain that the DOPR will do nothing—zero—with it; the DOPR seems to have instructed its PEP agents to ignore illegally unleashed dogs. So why do we want this information?

New York City’s “leash law”, which generally requires dogs to be on a leash no more than 6 feet in length, is actually part of rules issues by the City’s Board of Health. When the “leash law” was first proposed in 2006 to be amended to permit unleashed dogs during limited times in the parks, the Board of Health solicited comments from the public. The Board of Health’s response to those comments, in an internal memo to the Health Commissioner, is here. As we will show in forthcoming posts, that memo is a collection of non-sequiturs, half-truths, and outright lies, but for present purposes we’re focusing on this statement:

Many comments of persons opposed to the amendment alleged that persons in control of off leash dogs do not comply with the current unofficial policies. DOPR, after reviewing such comments, has assured the Department that complaints should be made promptly through 311 if there are persons who let dogs run on or off the leash in areas off limits to dogs, or allow dogs to be off leash at impermissible times; or create any nuisance; or menace people, or otherwise behave in any manner that compromises public health, or threatens public safety. DOPR has represented that it will direct its enforcement officers to investigate and address such complain

Once these complaints to 311 have been filed, either the DOPR will stop this activity—in which case you will have made some Jamaican soccer players very happy—or, far more likely, we will send a list of the complaints to the Health Commissioner and challenge him to do something about the situation. We have other steps in mind if he does not respond.


Union Square, 8:50 A.M. Large brown dog wandering unleashed among the fruit and vegetable stalls, more or less accompanied by--who else?--a white male issuing periodic commands to the dog like "stay" or "go", to which the dog seemed indifferent. No cop in sight.

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