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City planners will put toddlers ahead of pooches in a major Gowanus park renovation — and dog owners are barking mad.
The Gowanus Playground — a small, underused park in the middle of a public housing complex bound by Wyckoff, Bond and Hoyt streets — has snagged $550,000 in city cash for a makeover that includes new play equipment, a walkway and a “lush garden.”
“We want to increase the green and make it more inviting,” city architect Ilan Kutok told Community Board 6, which voted unanimously to support the plan with a few conditions last Wednesday. “Once the renovation happens, we expect it to get a lot more use.”
But the self-described “dog people” in the neighborhood now say the Parks Department — which drew up and presented a rendering without first getting feedback from residents — should instead rip out a rarely-used swing set to make way for a puppy play space.
“Dog walkers are out late at night and that can make the area safer and friendlier,” said neighbor Claire Angelica. “There’s a lot of support for it.”
She suggested the city remove the “bucket seat” swings for toddlers to accommodate the ultimate gated community: a “dog run” where pups can roam without leashes.
Several more friends of Rover echoed that idea in an e-mail chain wherein one neighbor gushed, “I would love to have a dog run there!”
But residents in the neighboring Gowanus Houses complex — where up until recently, pups were forbidden — have waited just as long for the city to fix up the less-than-welcoming cement park for their kids, saying low-income tots should take priority over pampered pooches.
Indeed, timing of the renovation is likely more than coincidence: As Gowanus blossoms from industrial to residential — and more families move in — some gentrifiers feel empowered to stake a claim over open space and urge authorities to fix up blighted areas.
The Parks Department notes it has “shared a desire to renovate [the park] for years” — but hadn’t had the funds until now. The funding, the agency said, is allocated based on “need” — a somewhat nebulous city term — in consultation with local elected officials.
The park is about the size of the farmer’s market at Grand Army Plaza and has several net-less basketball basket hoops where teenagers and vagrants sometimes congregate. It also has more popular handball courts, rarely used slides and some spray showers.
After the renovation, kids will be able to scurry up “play rocks” — which are like mini boulders at a climbing gym — and play on a painted dolphin while parents picnic on new tables inside an “adult seating area.”
It all sounded fine to CB6 members, though the approval did come with a recommendation for city officials to meet with the residents to “look into” a dog run before beginning the renovation this summer.
“This park has always been terribly underused,” Angelica said, adding pooch people are champing at the bit. “Why not bring in the dog community?”Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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