When Village Trustees Denise Hogan, Richard Kavesh, Marie Lorenzini and Louise Parker voted earlier this year against changing village law to allow off-leash dogs before 9am in Memorial Park, they touched a nerve with the many friends of man’s best friend. Nyack area residents have been letting their four legged friends swim in the Hudson at the park before 9am for years, apparently without complaint. But new signs posted in the park last week make dogs’ doggy paddling a thing of the past.
Although two South Nyack residents have had their say in print, the Village Board is unlikely to listen unless there is a Nyack address attached to their name. Especially considering that two of the trustees that voted no are running for re-election this Fall.
All right, I confess, for close to six years now I have been a lawbreaker.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t any major law; nobody really got hurt by what I and several other “lawbreakers” were doing. In fact, our “lawbreaking” was confined to allowing our dogs to run “off- leash” and have a great time socializing, or chasing tennis balls and Frisbees, or going for a dunk in the river during the summer at Memorial Park in Nyack. Pretty harmless fare. This “crime” was outrageously perpetrated every morning between the hours of 6 to 8:30 a.m. on the lower field in the park. With the exception of the dogs and dog owners, hardly any citizenry was there at that early hour. For the most part, the village “looked the other way” to our criminal deeds.
This dedicated group of dog lovers (usually 8 to 12 people weekdays and a few more on the weekend) would bring their dogs to the park and mindfully watch as the dogs stayed within the confines of the ballfield or the old boat ramp. All those that came, knew (or were quickly apprised of) the rules – immediately clean up after your dog, and notify other group members if they failed to see their dog doing its morning constitutional. On occasion we even held impromptu “clean-up” days where everyone would be given a bag and shovel with the aim of cleaning up any detritus or extraneous dog messes (some less responsible people come to the park during the day and allow their dog to mess and not pick up after it).
Through this early-morning get-together I made many new friends and really enjoyed the ritual, as did my dog Chance. However, at some point last year, rumors began to fly that the village was imminently going to clamp down on this nefarious activity. In anticipation of being banned from the park, a group of us approached the Nyack village board with a petition to amend the antiquated (1951), somewhat vague law that, among other things, makes reference to keeping one’s dog on a leash at all times on the “streets” of Nyack. We proposed that the laws be modified to allow dogs to run off-leash in the lower section of Memorial Park during the hours of 6 to 8:30 a.m. This time period would have had virtually non-existent impact on local citizenry since there was hardly anyone at the park during those hours other than the dog people. To validate our request, substantial documentation was left with the board about other villages that successfully operate dog parks. Since the board was concerned about possible liability, we recommended an annual fee to defray any potential insurance costs.
We were not looking for the Village of Nyack to spend any money on this endeavor. All of us, including the dogs, were happy with the existing setup. With the exception of one board member who voted in our favor, our proposal was flatly denied.
Over the years I have noticed several things that have actually been beneficial to the park because of our early morning presence. The large flocks of Canada geese that used to roost on the ballfield and, in turn, leave substantial “reminders” of their presence, have pretty much moved on (a toxicologist in our group reported to the board that goose droppings are far more toxic than dog droppings). Early-morning drug dealing was also a fairly common occurrence in the park. With the presence of the dogs, the narcotics merchants have also moved on.
Unfortunately, last week, our little Utopia came to a crashing halt. Large signs were posted throughout the park with copies of Chapter 17 of the village code and notification that, effective Aug. 7, tickets would be issued to all those not in compliance. Orangetown Police officers now routinely cruise the park looking for offenders (or “disorderly people” as stated in paragraph 17-4 of the code).
I’ve lived and worked in the Nyack community for 40 years. I have watched Nyack (Gem of the Hudson) grow and become one of the most sought-after places to live in the greater metropolitan New York area. I have also noticed that, in recent years, this “gem” has lost some of its glitter. With ghastly taxes, parking problems, street riots, an eroding infrastructure, late-night bar fights, and myriad other social, economic and business issues to contend with, I really question why the village refuses to consider a win-win proposal from a small group of dog lovers who just want to exercise and socialize their doggies.