Monday, February 20, 2012

Much Adoo About Dogs in West Harlem

This is sort of outside our area, but it proves a point we've made from time to time. The Times reports an increasing problem with dog waste in West Harlem.

While stepping in what a dog has left behind has long been an inherent peril of life in New York City, it is far less likely to happen than it was decades ago before the so-called pooper-scooper law was introduced. But like many changes in Harlem, which has been undergoing a radical transformation in recent years, the instances of unlucky steps have assumed larger significance.

Longtime residents, looking for a theory, point out that affluent newcomers are bringing more dogs into the neighborhood. And they are suggesting, sometimes subtly and sometimes not, that the recently arrived dog owners are not as vigilant about cleaning up after their pets as they should be.

“I guess it’s the new thing,” said Eutha Prince, the community board’s district manager. “More and more you see expensive dogs walking around where you used to see mutts.”

Ms. Morgan-Thomas said the problem began gathering steam in the last four years, when more people began arriving in the neighborhood, bringing increased gentrification.

“I think it has a lot to do with the fact that they’ve come to a new community in Harlem,” she said, “and because people throw paper on the ground or whatever, and people are not so protective and invested in the community, new citizens feel like, ‘Oh well, so what, let my dog poop.’ ”

. . .

Any discussion of newcomers to Harlem has, by its very nature, a racial underpinning, given that most longtime residents are black and many newcomers are white. But dog owners said that race played no role when it came to untended waste.

“I don’t think it’s a racial issue,” said David Hazen, a dog owner and avowed poop-picker-upper who moved to the neighborhood two years ago. “It’s a laziness issue.”

It may not be a racial issue but it's a racial fact. Not all dog owners are white, and not all white dog owners leave dog poop on the ground, just as not all white dog owners let their dogs off-leash, legally or otherwise. But dogs generally come with white people. It is just that sort of gentrification that motivated the off-leash rules, and the same thing is now happening in Harlem. And the white folks with dogs who are moving there are probably the same type of people who live in Park Slope, or who used to live there until they were priced out of the neighborhood, and who let their dogs loose in the park. To them, it is "me first", and everyone else be damned.

Hat tip to Christina.

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