Jan. 7, 2016 By Hannah Douglas
In a canine conversation Wednesday, Astoria residents pitched their ideas for the new dog park planned under the Triborough/RFK bridge.
Dog devotees joined the Parks Department in a workshop-style discussion to provide input on the $1 million dog run, which will sit under the bridge at Hoyt Avenue between 23rd and 24th Streets.
The Astoria dog run was one of the winning projects in Councilmember Costa Constantinides’ last round of participatory budgeting, securing $500,000 for the project. More than 700 people voted for the dog run, Constantinides said.
Borough President Melinda Katz later allocated an additional $500,000 to the project.
“It’s not just a dog run,” Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski said on Wednesday. “We’re looking at the entire parcel. Everything from adding water to the site, creating new fencing, reconfiguration of some of the fencing, completely upgrading the basketball court with new backboards, new seating.”
The space has two basketball courts, one of which will be replaced by the new dog park. Lewandowski said one idea she has is to designate the basketball court closest to 24th Street as the dog run, and upgrade the other court, which is near a playground on Hoyt Ave. between 21st and 23rd streets.
Improving drainage is another element the department is examining, as the whole parcel has only two drains, according to Theresa Dewey, the agency’s landscape architect and the project’s designer.
Many of the proposals that residents put forward for the park, which will open at dawn and close at 9 p.m., include a double fenced-area to prevent dogs from running out when someone enters, an easily-cleanable surface (possibly rubber or concrete), water access for dogs and their owners, improved lighting and a division between small and large dogs, to name a few. Another suggestion was to create seating around the site’s existing columns.
Astoria resident Shannon Axelrod presented a few ideas from her workshop group, including bleacher-type benches, as well as a small “river” of flowing water that would run in a basin throughout the park.
The ideas collected Wednesday will be compiled by the Parks Department and generated into a design, which will be revealed at a future meeting to be announced. Afterwards, a procurement process lasting about 9 to 12 months takes place, followed by a bidding process for a contractor, and finally the construction, according to Constantinides.
“We’re talking about 2017 for actual shovel in the ground,” Jim Mituzas, Queens Landscape Design Director, told the group.
At the tail end of the meeting, Bill Peloquin, president of the Astoria Dog Owners Association, inquired about putting up a temporary “fence or two” to be used while the dog run is being created.
Lewandowski responded that she is “not opposed” to the idea, but noted that the process for temporary use of park space includes seeking community board approval.
Bugsy’s Dog Run founder Tex Cruikshank, who attended the meeting, said he supports the dog run, but he doesn’t want to see the city screw the pooch, so to speak.
“The problem with many dog runs is they make them for the people,” Cruikshank said. “This dog run hopefully will be for the dogs.”
His dog run, near Shore Boulevard at Astoria Park South, is a small off-leash space, not operated by the city. He cautioned that the two main issues in maintaining the dog park are noise and sanitation.
“We will make enemies if the dogs bark,” he said. “We will make enemies if the people do not pick up [after the dogs]. It is imperative that the Astoria dog owners don’t become their own worst enemies.”