Written by Dagmar Fors Karppi Friday, 11 November 2011 00:00
The Town of Oyster Bay will soon get its first dog park. The promise was made by Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto at the end of the Oct. 18 board meeting. Town residents Peggy Heijmen of Oyster Bay and Michael Peress of Jericho spoke in favor of the dogs.
Peggy Heijmen, a resident of Oyster Bay and a member of Long Island Dog, a 5013(c)3 organization was there to ask for access to parks and beaches for Long Island dog owners. Ms. Heijmen said in June 2110 the group submitted a petition signed by 300 dog owners asking for a dog park in the town. She said they hoped when the SEA Fund was passed that the town would put some funds aside to provide a safe place for dogs to exercise. They suggested a potential site that was the former Liberty site, and is now known as the Allen Park Extension, a site in South Farmingdale; and one in Massapequa, Louden Avenue.
The town gave them positive feedback last year, but since then nothing has happened. “We want to be able to enjoy the parks and beaches with our dogs,” she said.
“I live near TR Park and walk my dog in the area by the train station,” but she said she cannot legally bring the dog into the park. There are signs up saying “no dogs allowed.”
She said, “This is an unfriendly place to live with your dog.”
Mr. Venditto said straight out, “You are 110 percent right.” He said he thought he could live up to his saying they would create a dog park for the town. He said the intent and motivation were there but it was a case of finding the right place for the dog park. He said, “The Town of Oyster Bay is not like NYC. We more jealously guard our quality of life.” He said he understood Ms. Heijmen’s feelings about dogs saying his daughter is “beyond love” with dogs. He said, “It just takes a little longer in the Town of Oyster Bay [to act], but we are prepared to open a dog park.”
In a telephone interview Hal Maher, TOB environmental consultant, explained that, “A dog park has been a long time project for the town and Councilwoman Rebecca Alesia has taken an interest in it and has been looking into it. There are problems inherent in that in some residential areas there are neighbors who are close and would not like it ‘in their back yard’. The first site that is workable is on Louden Avenue in Massapequa. It is a 5 ½ acre park and the engineers say about 1 ½ acres are needed for a dog park. It will need parking for the owners as well as drainage and lighting.”
Mr. Maher explained what the Supervisor said, that the Massapequa location is not readily accessible to people from Oyster Bay, but it meets all the criteria including that it won’t bother anyone. The supervisor also said they were interested in finding sites more centrally located in the town such as in Hicksville, Plainview or Syosset.
At the meeting the Supervisor said, “There will be a meeting in Allen Park shortly to talk to residents about a dog park. It means another night out,” for the staff.
Mr. Maher explained, “The town recently acquired the Liberty site, now called Allen Park. In the spring there will be a meeting with community to get a visioning process begun on what will go on that property and a dog park is a possibility. There have been other sites in Syosset and Plainview suggested but nothing as yet has been found as being acceptable.”
Mr. Venditto said at the town meeting they have looked at 10 to 12 sites in the town, talking to residents about the concept of a dog park in their area. He said the problem was to get communities to agree to the dog parks.
Assistant Supervisor Len Genova said there are things to do before the dog park on Louden Avenue, Massapequa can open which includes parking, lighting and drainage. They believe it can happen in March. “If the winter is not bad,” added the supervisor, working from experience.
Ms. Heijmen said there are thousands of dog owners in the town who have been penalized by the unfriendly signs that say “no dogs allowed”. She said people should be willing to share space with pets, “Who are family members.”
Supervisor Venditto said the town board itself had just suggested three other possible locations for dog parks. He asked Hal Mayer to form a committee to work with the Peggy Heijmen and Michael Peress of Long Island Dogs, the speakers.
Michael Peress of Jericho, said, “LI Dogs is doing a terrific job and we are glad you are opening a dog park but I believe we need to be able to use the existing space/parks.”
He said in East Birchwood there are four parklets that are in disrepair and have no dogs or kids. They are over-treed, there are beer bottles and broken glass there, he said.
Councilman Macagnone said the Parks Department will clean up and patrol those areas.
Mr. Peress said the parklets were put in years ago at a time when kids could be unsupervised. “Today there are swing sets in backyards,” explained Michael. He suggested the dog people can use existing parks possibly by charging a fee at set times to allow for what he called “a balanced” use of the parks.
Mr. Peress said, “When no one is around we do let our dogs use your parks. Dogs have to be dogs. But I don’t want to be a criminal. Nothing happens but there is a rule that says no dogs.”
He added, “When a park is empty we use it for our dogs. When people come we leave. If a dog barks, we leave. We clean up. The dogs are under control. It goes on all the time. Just make it legal.”
Mr. Venditto said they would take it into advisement. “You make sense and I’d be an advocate for you.” But he added, we have had several incidents with dogs such as dog fights. “I have a miniature dachshund and if you take a bone away he becomes a terror.”
Mr. Venditto took a philosophical look at the issue. He said, “When we had our first application for senior citizen housing people came out to protest. It was incredible and the application was turned down.” But, he added, “On Powell Avenue in Bethpage one opened with no protestations.” He said “There was a similar reaction when the town put in a house for adults with Down Syndrome with more howls from the public and afterwards, the people who protested came over with apple and cherry pies.”
He said if we can get the first dog park done, it is sure that others will follow.