Wednesday, April 22, 2009

"Attack" in the Ramble; More on the CPC

Above: sign at northeast entrance to Central Park's Ramble.

Once again, a headline that delivers something other than it promises. A report from our correspondent, on an incident with a strong racist undercurrent:
This morning I decided to go birding with a fairly large group in Central Park. As I entered the Ramble alone at about 7:30, I saw this fellow and his two large unleashed dogs.
The dogs approached me in a friendly manner, and I asked him, politely, "didn't you know that dogs must be leashed here at all times?" He said "no, I didn't," but even though another fellow immediately told him the same thing, he continued on his way with the dogs unleashed.

I caught up with the group and a few minutes later we entered Tupello Meadow, to hear a woman screaming from the bushes repeatedly,"I'm being attacked." We yelled back that we were on our way. When we reached the woman we saw her with an unleashed dog and a well-respected, and mild-mannered, Central Park birder. She was out of control and spouting four-letter words, and he was saying "I just told her to leash her dog." We also told her to leash her dog, and she then accused us of "mobbing her" and said she'd call the cops. She also said that she had her dog off-leash "just for a few seconds", that she was disabled and was just trying to climb the hill (the surrounding area is flat) and that she had two broken legs. We were then joined by some CPC staff members who tried to shoo us away, one of whom told me that I wasn't allowed to take pictures.

The birder then explained to us that someone else had told the woman to leash her dogs, but that she had "gone ballistic" when he told her to do so. He had then fed the dogs some doggie treats that he keeps in his pocket just for this purpose, figuring that the only way the owner would be able to keep the dog from eating them was to leash it; and that made her "go ballistic" even more. We then walked away. Here is the end of the incident; the birder is the fellow closest to the dog owner.

Interestingly, we saw this woman an hour later near the Shakespeare Garden, without her dog. She was trailing us. It is not clear whether her dog had run away or perhaps she had left the dog at home and come back to follow us.

It did not escape any of us that the dog owner was a white woman and the birder was a black male. It was pretty clear to us that the woman had yelled "I'm being attacked" figuring that people would see black and white and draw the "obvious" conclusion. She didn't reckon on her "rescuers" instead being a bunch of fellow birders. As one guy in our group said, "everybody knows" the birder--this time of year, he's in Central Park every day--and you'd hope that if this woman actually filed a police report, the cops would be smart enough to figure things out. But one never knows. For the birder, this is a potentially dangerous situation.

I chatted briefly with one of the CPC staffers, who seemed pretty senior. He told me that unleashed dogs were a serious problems "after we've put all this money into the park" and that the CPC was working with PEP and the police to address it. He claimed that the PEP and the cops were giving summonses for illegally unleashed dogs, that the summonses stuck, that if a person given a summons has no identification the person is taken to the police station in handcuffs--and that he had seen this happen. And he added that the CPC keeps a spreadsheet of these summonses. He also said that on occasion there are undercover PEP agents stationed in the Ramble. But, he said, the PEP has limited staff, and many of their staff is seasonal without "officer of the peace" status to write summonses.

We continued our walk. I saw two other unleashed dogs in the Ramble and one other, after 9 A.M., on the east side of the lake north of Bow Bridge.
Remember our post about Marcia claiming she was being "attacked" by being photographed? One wonders if the anti-leash organizations are teaching their members to make claims like that. One also wonders when the CPC will realize that unleashed dogs are making a mess of their multi-million dollar investment in the entire park, not just the wooded areas.

And an addendum on the Ramble incident from another correspondent:
I met up with a group of birders who had been in the Ramble at 7:30 this morning, looking for the Hooded Warbler among others, and was told about a frightening incident whereby they were confronted by a woman and dog (not sure if dog was leashed) who began screaming at them and approaching them, yelling something to the effect "Birders are poisoning out dogs, there's a woman who is out to get us" and more.

These birders were so alarmed, startled, frightened, intimidated, they couldn't even tell me what the dog or woman looked like.

Enough for today. Tomorrow: more incidents in the Ramble, flouting the 6-foot-leash rule, and dogs in tot playgrounds in Park Slope.

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