Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher: Proposed Dog Run at Harborside Park - Council Voting tonight!

Official release:


 
Dear friends and neighbors:  
Tonight, among many other things, I am sponsoring and the council will be voting on a temporary new dog run to be added into Harborside Park.  This will be the end of the field that is along the western edge adjacent to Park Avenue, with the entrance being on the inner sidewalk.  The size of the run would be no more than 20% of the field.  
The resolution attached was what was submitted by the Administration and included in our agenda pack.  I asked yesterday that it be amended, which it is in process of doing, to include more context.  Form over substance as it ultimately accomplishes the same thing, but the context around this proposed change is important, including feedback we received from the public hearing we had last week so please read what will be the amended language below.  
WHEREAS, the northeast corner of Hoboken that runs along 15th St. has some of the highest population density in the entire City including, but not limited to six buildings with ten or more stories, a seventh currently under development, when combined total approximately 1,300 homes; and,
WHEREAS, all six existing high rise properties as well as many of the other neighboring properties allow pets including dogs of all sizes; and,
WHEREAS, the area does not currently have any convenient, official areas that provide accommodations for dogs; and 
WHEREAS, the area is also the home of schools including Elysian Charter and Hoboken Montessori; and 
WHEREAS, the park behind Harborside Lofts at the northeast corner of 15th St. and Park Ave. currently includes four areas – two playgrounds which cater to young children, one area providing shelter from the sun, and one large approximate 90’ x 195’ field that is fenced in and is mainly used by children from neighboring schools during the school year and toddler programs; all of these park areas do not allow dogs; and 
WHEREAS, the City is proposing under this resolution, to allocate a portion (no greater than 20%) of the open field per the attached diagram, to be constructed as a temporary dog run; and
WHEREAS, the dog run is considered temporary given the current Rebuild By Design project expects to construct a new resilient park between 2020-2022; and
WHEREAS, given the idea is for it to be temporary, the goal is to make only necessary installments to minimize costs including a separation fence structure, dog relief stations and a double gate; and 
WHEREAS, funds for this temporary dog run and the one proposed for 2nd and Hudson were included in the 2018 Municipal Budget; and
WHEREAS, Chapter 56A-3 of the Hoboken City Code requires public comment and city council recommendation for any change in use of any City owned park; and, 
WHEREAS, the City is seeking to install a temporary dog run at the park located at the northeast corner of 15th St. and Park Ave and therefore solicited public comment by way of a public survey and received 604 responses with over 60% responding in favor of making the suggested change (results of which are attached hereto); and,
WHEREAS, a public hearing was also held on July 24, 2018; and, 
WHEREAS, at the public hearing, approximately 20-25 residents from neighboring areas and representatives of Elysian Charter, among others, attended; and
WHEREAS, concerns raised at the meeting ranged from the lack of any large parks that allow dogs to run and get exercise to reducing the space for children to play in favor of dogs and also included concerns about the location being too close to Park Avenue (too dangerous) and about the surface potentially being unnatural (like stones) which can result in strong odors; and
WHEREAS, an additional issue raised at the meeting (and prior to) was the lack of enforcement at the park that resulted in dogs currently going to the park when children are not there and soiling areas where children play; and
WHEREAS, most, but not all of the residents who attended the hearing were interested in having additional accommodations for dogs in this area, including a healthy discussion about the possibility of sharing the field where dogs could be allowed to run free during certain hours; and 
WHEREAS, other concerns raised by residents via email, telephone and social media included ensuring the separating structure does not allow for children to put their hands into the dog area, that the surface area was grass to keep odors to a minimum, that the field be better maintained than its current condition, and that better enforcement be provided to ensure dogs are not brought into the field area where they are prohibited; and 
WHEREAS, if the proposed measure is approved, the goal is to have the newly installed dog accommodation completed as soon as possible leading up to the first day of classes for Elysian Charter (September 6th, 2018); and
WHEREAS, the final concept renderings are attached hereto; and,
WHEREAS, the City plans to maintain a grass surface and will install one or more chain-link fences (possibility for a double row) as the separation structure to be covered with mesh and a double gate entrance typical of other dog runs in Hoboken; and 
WHEREAS, the City Council recommends the installation of a temporary dog run at the park located on the northeast corner of 15th and Park Avenue in accordance with Chapter 56A-3 of the Hoboken City Code. 
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the City Council of the City of Hoboken recommends the installation of a temporary dog run at the park located at the northeast corner of 15th St. and Park Avenue as depicted in the attached renderings;...
We talked about a number of things at the public hearing, but by far, the big conversation was this concept of sharing space at a park.  Parks like Central Park, Prospect Park and Thompson Square Park were cited where they let dogs run free from something like 7pm-7am and we were asked to consider it here.  Even representatives from Elysian thought it was worth considering.  After the meeting, Directors Pelligrini and Gonzalez and their staff agreed to do more research.  The initial thoughts were that this field may be too small – more dogs and more urine in such a small area where children play - but that maybe something we can consider doing a PILOT for in another park that has a larger area to be included (Elysian? Pier A?).  
Additionally, Director Gonzalez, who is transitioning into her new role as Acting Director of Environmental Services as Director Pellegrini transitions out, stated that she will see to it that the field will be restored/reseeded shortly, the surrounding hedges will be cut, signs will be updated to be more clear, the park in general will be better maintained, and that they will look to increase enforcement in the early and late hours to keep dogs out of the space where they are not allowed.  
If you will not be attending our council meeting this evening, you can watch online HERE.  Additionally, we will be posting the video of the public hearing online this morning.  If you want to watch it, please email me and I’ll send the link when I get it.  And as always, please feel free to reach out if you want to discuss this, or anything else, by email or by phone 201/208-1674.