Dog vs. Baby Battle Averted at Friends of Transmitter Park Meeting

by Heather Van De Mark on

The Friends of Transmitter Park (FOTP) meeting last night at Red Star Bar was hyped by some media outlets as an epic turf war between dogs and babies finally coming to a head. It was anything but. The first FOTP meeting was a friendly, well-organized meet-your-neighbor round table of open discussion.

Recap of the First Friends of Transmitter Park Meeting
Barbara Vitell, of the Greenpoint West St. Block Association and the current chair of Friends of Transmitter Park, a position she is looking to cede, led the meeting. She started it differently by asking that we all stand up, move away from our seats and say hello to the people around us, emphasizing that we are a community and we need to know our neighbors in order to work together.

This ended up being a great way to meet both concerned residents as well as active community organizers who otherwise may be intimidating or inaccessible to meet. Representatives from GWAPP, Open Space Alliance (OSA), OSA Community Committee (OSA Comm Comm), TownSquare, NYC Parks, and CM Steve Levin’s office were all present.

After everyone introduced themselves briefly, the real work began. Barbara opened the floor for anyone to speak for one minute uninterrupted, and encouraged everyone to be respectful of one another. After a few deep breaths, people began opening up. And yes, the majority of the meeting was taken up by the dogs in the park issue.

General statements/concerns from the parent bloc:

  • No one is anti-dog and no one has a problem with responsible dog owners;
  • But dogs off leash are a safety problem;
  • Transmitter Park is too small a space for dogs to be off leash;
  • The park is not enclosed and off leash dogs can get out onto the street; and
  • The cost of greening the space was/is too high for dogs to be urinating and defecating in the area.

General statements/concerns from the dog bloc:

  • Is it possible to have specific off-leash hours (early or late or both) in Transmitter Park; and
  • Greenpoint and Williamsburg have the highest concentration of dogs in NYC, the area needs some sort of dog run.

A Dog Run in Greenpoint
This shifted the conversation into what needs to be done, what has been done, what could be done to get a dog run in the north side of Greenpoint. As many long-time activists pointed out, it’s equal parts perception and hard-work. Many people are going to say it’s not possible to get a dog run: there’s no place for it, no money for it, excuse, excuse, excuse. But if a few dedicated residents could band together to organize and demand and fight and push for it, it’s quite possible to get the impossible done. Greenpoint has an excellent activist history in achieving that which can’t be done.

After the FOTP meeting, a group of residents moved to the corner of the room to focus solely on the dog park issue. Hopefully, a coalition of sorts was formed and GWAPP looks forward to hearing more from them and promoting their cause. For now, there is a petition on this issue for interested parties to sign.

Other Comments
After much speculation over how to get a dog run, one audience member spoke up commenting, I thought this meeting was about the park, not dogs? A valid point that helped shift the conversation back to Transmitter Park specifically. One resident mentioned that no special interest group–babies or dogs–should take priority in the park. Community enjoyment as a whole should be the priority. The only non-dog concern raised was that there is no shade in the park and that could be addressed perhaps by planting a tree or by some other solution.

Rules of the Park
What are the official rules of the park? Lisa Bloodgood from CM Steve Levin’s office produced some “Dog in the Park” brochures for audience members to take home. And Kurt Cavanaugh from OSA explained that the rules are: dogs must always be leashed (there are no off leash hours at all) and dogs are not allowed on the central grass (aka they need to stay along the walking paths of the park.) No other rules were discussed.

Several people commented that the park’s signage (“No dogs on the lawn” signs and the larger “Rules of the Park” sign) has been taken down or been stolen repeatedly.

Jason, the NYC Parks gardener for Transmitter Park, stressed that everyone please follow the rules of the park.

Future of Friends of Transmitter Park
Barbara’s goals for the future are to set up a dedicated FOTP working group to solve problems that occur in the park, as well as to create a list of people, places, organizations that community members can go to in order to get more involved in community activism.

Kurt offered his e-mail: as a place people can send their comments about Transmitter Park (or any park in North Brooklyn).

Jason also mentioned that Transmitter Park will be having a weekend volunteer event in April, mid-May to move around, replace and plant some of the greenery in the park. More details on that to come.

Barbara ended the meeting very positively, imploring all of us at the meeting, what can YOU do for your park and this community?

Heather Van De Mark

Heather Van De Mark

Heather is a designer/writer specializing in non-profit organizations and social causes. Originally from central NY, Heather settled into the charming Greenpoint neighborhood in 2011. While most of her community activism takes place from behind a computer screen, Heather can often be found at CB1 meetings, the McCarren Park track and any of the parks along the waterfront.