Grassy goal: Locals demand Bridge Park replace dog run’s stony surface with turf

Dream team: Sandy Balboza and her dog Bodie want the Brooklyn Bridge Park honchos to install artifical dog grass at the Pier 6 dog run so the pooches can play in comfort.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Life is ruff for these dogs!

The gravel at the Pier 6 dog run in Brooklyn Bridge Park is ruining pooches’ playtime because it so uncomfortable to frolic on, according to local canine owners, who are demanding the park replace it with a pricey artificial grass made especially for four-legged furballs.

“There’s an opportunity to put in a material that’s safe for pets,” said Sandy Balboza, who sits on the park’s volunteer Community Advisory Council and is the mother of 5-year-old poodle-mix Bodie. “There are a lot of dogs who don’t like to walk on the gravel so they don’t come here, and some of them who do come might sit up on the concrete and not play.”

The play pen is currently covered in a material called “pea gravel,” which gets stuck between dogs’ claws, can harbor bacteria and mold, and becomes very muddy when wet, according to Balboza. To make matters worse, the lining under the run is torn and now sharp stones are making their way into the mix and cutting the pups’ paw pads, she said.

Bodie steers clear when it gets muddy, but some dogs refuse to run on the uneven surface at all and stick to a narrow paved area encircling the pooch park, another human said.

“She would rather run laps around the outside on the concrete rather than be on the gravel,” said Downtowner Stephanie Rodriguez of her 2-year-old mixed-breed Thea, who she brings to the park when she plays volleyball. “It’s not comfortable for her.”

Park honchos asked Balboza and 11 others to come up with a report last year suggesting a replacement surface, and Balboza has since collected 200 signatures supporting a special dog turf called K9 Grass. But the bigwigs rejected the idea, saying the sod hasn’t been proven at other public parks in the city and it would be a pain to maintain, anyway.

“It has no track record in highly-trafficked public dog runs in New York City, and its maintenance requirements are extremely labor intensive,” said park spokeswoman Belinda Cape, adding that the park instead intends to just replace the dog run’s lining and then pour more pea gravel on top.

But those who have used the dog grass say it is actually very easy to care for once it is in.

“We love it — it requires very little maintenance and it’s very durable,” said Sean O’Rourke, who is the president of Friends of Schuylkill River Park in Philadelphia, which installed K9 Grass five years ago. “I don’t know how someone can say there’s any maintenance involved.”

K9 Grass costs around $14–$19 per square foot, according to Susan Fox of New York synthetic grass company Tech Grass, though she says she would cover the entire dog run with it for a neighborly rate of around $79,800. Meanwhile, half a cubic foot of pea gravel, or around half a milk crate’s worth, costs $4.27 from Home Depot.

Councilman Steve Levin (D–Boerum Hill) has joined Balboza’s side of the artificial turf war and says he told park officials they should at least explore the idea.

“At the very least it deserves to be looked at thoroughly,” said Levin, who sits on the Brooklyn Bridge Park board. “We want the best possible experience for dogs and their people.”

The dog run is located right next to luxury condo building One Brooklyn Bridge Park and the site of two forthcoming Pier 6 apartment towers. Cape wouldn’t say whether the dog run will remain open during the construction.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
A green solution: Sandy Balboza is advocating that the park install grass made especially for dogs in place of the gravel.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

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