In his President’s Report at the May, 2022, board meeting, Shelton J. Haynes proposed a new temporary dog run for Roosevelt Island. Dog owners were frustrated, and that evolved toward anger. Haynes appears clueless after five years of dodging dog run concerns, leaving residents without hope any solution for a grinding issue.
(Note: This the first in a series of stories covering the dog crisis on Roosevelt Island.)
by David Stone
A Future Dog Run Disappointing Everyone on Both Sides
Wrangling escalated in recent weeks as dog owners were confronted by residents objecting to their free use of athletic fields. Frustration mounted as exaggerated claims of “dog poop everywhere” floated on social media.
But dog lovers believe they have no real choice for giving their dogs healthful exercise because RIOC‘s Worst in the Universe dog runs are unusable. Conscientious dog lovers would not risk the health and safety of their canine friends in these community embarrassments.
But then, reacting as usual after not acting as promised for years, RIOC started ticketing dog owners for letting their dogs visit athletic fields, even when not in use for anything else. It’s a common practice around Manhattan, but not here.
But that’s nothing compared to the insult Haynes dished out on Thursday.
What makes for a good and healthy dog run?
If you ask dog owners, the answer is usually some combination of space, grass, water and shade. Anything else is an afterthought.
Haynes’ proposal for a dog run under the Queensboro Bridge eliminates all of those things. It’s a partially grassed lot with large concrete patches and a chain link fence around it. There’s little grass, no water and no shade. It’s a dog run for masochists, not dog owners.
But dog owners aren’t laughing.
And the future dog run announced by Haynes is even worse than that because, as few are aware, the location is where barges once offloaded oil for firing boilers in Goldwater Hospital’s power plant. The ground is so saturated with decades of minor oil spills and leaks, it sports its own No Smoking sign.
As an additional issue, the deteriorating power plant looms high above the location. Abandoned for years now by the city, it looks in imminent danger of collapse. A long crack extends up its tower stack. Netting hangs over bricks at risk of falling into the street below.
The Dog Run That Wasn’t
Roosevelt Island dog activist Scott Piro wrote, “If things go according to plan, visitors to the Island’s southern dog run will soon enjoy a new view – and some much needed shade. The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation and real estate developer Hudson Related have agreed to temporarily relocate to Blackwell Park to make way for the impending construction of two new residential towers.”
That article was published in December, 2017. At the time, Haynes was RIOC’s Director of Operations, a position for which nothing in his work history suggests he was qualified.
That never happened because RIOC backed off and Hudson-Related’s David Kramer, who has long planned on building a high-quality dog run in Southtown, is still waiting for a new location.
Hopefully, it won’t be the disaster waiting to happen under the bridge. Northtown? For Octagon’s equally dissatisfied dog owners, Haynes dished up the standard imprecise mumble of intentions.
One More Thing
In an attempt to convince the board of community involvement in his plans, Haynes said he’d been talking with Residents Association President Rossana Ceruzzi and Community Board 8 Representative Lynne Strong-Shinozaki.
There was no indication that he talked with any of the dog owners or other interested parties. But Ceruzzi confirmed that she’s been discussing the issues with him… for the last five years.
Strong-Shinozaki, wife of board member Michael Shinozaki, was doing her due diligence on behalf of CB8, checking in.
After five plus years of stalling and fumbling, Haynes appeared jerked in the wrong direction by angry voices growing louder, a Roosevelt Island specialty.
Absence of strong leadership lets controversy fester. And the question lingers, as it does with so many other things, “Why can’t Roosevelt Island manage problems resolved long ago in almost every other city neighborhood?”
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