Should dogs be allowed on Cadman Plaza Park’s turf?

The fur is flying on local blogs

September 5, 2023 Mary Frost
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DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — The howling has already begun over the issue of allowing dogs to frolic on the new artificial turf currently being installed in Cadman Plaza Park.

When Brooklyn Heights resident Tony Soll applauded the Park Department’s turf work via the NextDoor website, another resident immediately shot back, “Let’s hope our entitled dog-owning neighbors don’t ruin it.”

“How about getting the caregivers, parents, snack eaters, bottle and coffee drinkers, and others to clean up their trash, which is frequently all over the real grass, as well as the plastic grass, as well as under all the benches, etc.?” Soll replied. Most dog owners, “scrupulously clean up after their dogs,” he said.

His comment had the effect of a match on dry tinder.

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“You can’t clean dog poop and pee out of artificial turf. It’s disgusting,” shot back Jackie (last names aren’t used without permission). 

“I have a dog. My friends all have dogs. None of us allow our dogs on any turf field because it isn’t built for dog nails or dog urine or dog feces. It is a playing field for people,” Linda said. 

“No dogs, period.  They pee and poop on the turf. They mark their territory and cause more dogs to do the same,” Andrew said.

The same pile-on was taking place on the neighborhood’s venerable Brooklyn Heights Blog (BHB), where most commenters use fanciful pseudonyms. 

Get rid of the dogs!!! They can go to a real dog park. The owners are the worst!” wrote someone with the moniker “Like dogs—hate entitled owners.”

“I have put in many complaints over the years about the dogs on the turf. They come, issue a warning and nothing more,” Tk1234 commented.

Not everyone was running with the anti-dog pack, however.

“Honestly, I’d much rather have dogs than the soccer players, who descend on the turf, claim large portions of it without any permit/signup/reservation process,” wrote HgtsShpr.

BHB writer Mary Kim told the Brooklyn Eagle that she doesn’t have a dog, nor does she have a toddler — anymore — who rolls around on the turf. (Her child is now 12-years-old and 5’8”, she said.) 

“So I don’t have a dog in the fight now. Haha,” Kim said. 

Still, she was firmly on the no-dogs side of the issue. 

“I used to have a huge problem with dogs on the turf, since not all of the owners clean up after their dogs. I’ve found dog poop and even diarrhea on the turf more than once,” she said. “I just imagined the free-range toddlers touching the poop, rubbing their eyes and putting their fingers in their mouths, which would be awful.”

Heights resident Andrea Demetropoulos, retired owner of pet shop Rocco & Jezebel, says she owns three dogs: Lola, a service dog; Hubby, a Shiba Inu and Sheba, a blind and deaf Boston terrier.

“Dogs should not go on the artificial turf,” she told the Eagle. “One, because it is for kids. And we know that dogs can just indiscriminately pee on everything and anything, and there are some owners that are not diligent about picking up poop. There are enough places to bring dogs. We’ve got Pier 6, we have Hillside Dog Park, we have the State Street run.”

“In these arguments people seem to go off,” she added. “People have to be accommodating and walk across the street to Walt Whitman Park.”

Construction continues on the artificial turf field at Cadman Plaza Park, but already the issue of allowing dogs on the turf has raised some hackles. Photo: Mary Frost, Brooklyn Eagle

Dog dispute has a long history

The dogs-on-turf feud isn’t new in Cadman Plaza Park. In 2015, BHB triggered a dog fight after posting a photo of a giant turd on the artificial turf. The pro-dog faction came on strong that year, with numerous owners claiming that they always cleaned up after their pups — and that it was the humans who were disgusting. 

“[That] pic…doesn’t look like dog poop..unless the dog weighs 600 pounds and is called a horse?” wrote MonroeOrange.

“How about no dogs crapping in the park. Ever,” responded Archibal Beechcraft, Esq. 

Dog defender MonroeOrange barked, “Lets turn the turf back into a dust bowl, then all you newbies will really complain!”

Lola, a service dog, with Heights resident Andrea Demetropoulos in Hillside Dog Park. Demetropoulos says that dogs don’t belong on the artificial turf in Cadman Plaza Park. Photo: Mary Frost, Brooklyn Eagle

Informal agreement?

The “newbies” comment reflected what some long-time dog owners feel, rightly or wrongly, is an informal understanding with the Parks Department that dates back to the installation of the turf in 2007. 

A woman walking her Labrador on the grass next to the turf this past week said that the Parks Department does seem to close its eyes to the canine intrusion.

“Come here at 7 a.m., there are loads of dogs,” she said. For the most part, the owners put the dogs on the real grass to do their business before letting them on the turf to play, she maintained.

Brian McCormick confirmed this general impression. 

“There are signs that are posted that say ‘No Pets On Turf.’ However, many residents in fact allow their pets on the turf during off-leash hours, even throwing balls to them. (All kinds of residents: all ages, genders, races, families, etc.),” he told the Eagle via NextDoor. 

“The majority of these people are good citizens, who do not, in fact, allow their dogs to ‘go’ on the turf, and make sure that part of the business is done before going turfside. The Parks Department has very infrequently shown up to enforce the rule, but it’s also notable that many of the signs appear to have been unofficially removed over time,” he said.

A woman walks her dog on the grass next to the fenced-off artificial turf field going in at Cadman Plaza Park. Photo: Mary Frost, Brooklyn Eagle

Community groups: ‘This has to stop’

“No. Absolutely not,” said Doreen Gallo, president of the Cadman Park Conservancy. While dog owners might have gotten away with allowing their dogs to frolic on the old artificial turf, the gleaming new field will be off limits, she told the Eagle.

“The athletic field in Cadman Plaza Park is the only area that dogs are prohibited,” Gallo said. (She added that chairs and strollers are also verboten on the fake turf.)

“The dogs that run around off-leash before 9 a.m. every morning — despite the ‘No Dogs on Turf’ signs installed by the Parks Department — are exacerbating the demise of the field,” Gallo said. “The Cadman Park Conservancy, the Brooklyn Heights Association and many adjoining community groups have spent years advocating for the artificial turf replacement. Now that we are getting a new field, we will do our best to protect it and expect the community to abide by the rules set by the NYC Parks Department.”

Lara Birnback, BHA’s executive director and a dog owner herself (Frankie, a mixed breed) echoed Gallo’s sentiment, adding that she was personally “very grateful” to Councilmember Restler and NYC Parks for making the new turf happen. 

“I know that in recent years, the turf field became a morning meeting place for dogs and their humans. In fact, dogs are not, and have never been, allowed on the artificial turf. I appeal to my fellow dog owners to respect this rule once the new turf opens. Dogs have lots of alternative places to roam — let’s work together to protect the health and safety of our kids and others using the turf for recreation,” she said.

Lara Birnback, executive director of the Brooklyn Heights Association, says her mixed breed Frankie, shown here, likes to play at Hillside Dog Park. Photo: Lara Birnback

Parks Department spokesperson Chris Clark responded to the Eagle’s request for clarity.

“We want our canine companions to enjoy dog-friendly greenspaces, but they are not allowed on synthetic turf areas, in order to keep these areas clean and intact for all park patrons. There are many natural turf areas in Cadman Plaza Park that our four-legged friends can use.”

In all likelihood, the yelping will die down as dog folks migrate to the grass next to the park or across the street to Walt Whitman Park, says Soll.

“I never allowed my previous, medium-sized dog on the turf but I now have a tiny 7-pound little Ewok and most of her buddies congregate on the turf,” he told the Eagle.

“I’m sure that the Parks Department will be cracking down when the plastic turf is completed, but I also think that the Whitman area across the street will be used more, as well as the north Oval, when it reopens,” he said, adding, “We had a great time on the Whitman and Cadman grass this morning and will encourage that when the renovations are complete.”

To see the official dog-friendly park areas in NYC, click here

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