Gowanus Lounge: Serving Brooklyn

Totally Random Enforcement of Leash Laws in Prospect Park

August 18th, 2008 · 11 Comments

[Nethermead Image courtesy Bird in Hand Yard/flickr]

We realize that off-leash practices at the Nethermead in Prospect Park are a hot button issue, but yesterday, we witnessed an NYC Park Police vehicle drive up and its officers start to randomly enforce the law. Specifically, they targeted one woman while watching at least a half dozen other continue to run around leash free. When the woman balked at producing ID they threatened to take her to the 78th Precinct. The officers even tried to ask a companion who had nothing to do with the dog for ID. The offending dog, at the time, was sitting in the grass next to its owner, even as other dogs ran all over the place. All for the “crime” of participating in a ritual at the Nethermead which is admittedly against the law, but which is a favorite among dog owners after 5PM. Off-leash hours in the park are from 9PM-9AM. Prospect Park has always had an unofficial off-leash policy starting at 5 p.m. on weekdays in the Nethermead and the evening dog run is popular among dog owners. The off-leash hours were created by Tupper Thomas, who is now the head of the Prospect Park Alliance, more than a decade ago. An off-leash violation is $100, which is the cost of the summons we watched the officer painstakingly write, while in the distance, dogs scampered off their leashes. When asked about the random enforcement, the officer responded that he couldn’t go after all the dogs running around. The summons noted that the dog in question was a “Rock Wilder” and that she was “unleashed and uncontrolled on parks property.” Half asleep at the foot of its owner, that is. Rock on, Rock Wilder.

GL Analysis:
While we recognize that many will cheer enforcement of off-leash regulations, what we are questioning is the random and almost vindictive enforcement that we witnessed. The officer was rude, vaguely threatening and dismissive of attempts to note that other dogs were running all over the place. (We believe the number of the vehicle number was 434 should anyone in the Park Department wish to commend its employees for their superior conduct and their courteous dealings with members of the park-going public.) To us, it was a ridiculous exercise of authority by ill-mannered employees of the Parks Department who threatened a young woman with a trip to the Precinct for, in effect, questioning what they were doing. Shame on the Parks Department for setting loose these rude public employees to target a single person out of dozens. If the law is to be enforced, it should be enforced uniformly and fairly. To do otherwise is to make a farce of the regulations and to undermine respect for the Parks Department. Frankly, we were utterly disgusted by what we saw.

Tags: Parks · Prospect Park

11 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Red Hook // Aug 18, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    “The officer was rude, vaguely threatening and dismissive of attempts to note that other dogs were running all over the place. ”

    It will be difficult to identify this officer, as this description describes most NYPD.

  • 2 Anonymous // Aug 18, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    I don’t see what’s so difficult about following the schedule for off-leash time. Yes, it is frustrating to encounter rude police officers who are not being fair and ticketing all rule-breakers simultaneously. Logistically, I do not forsee the police putting Nethermead on lockdown in order to force the law with the utmost fairness. I’ve been chased by many a dog midday in the park while on foot and on bike. I’ve been bit twice , seen small children knocked down, and watched dog owners react in an angry, unreasonable manner. I recognize that many people follow the rules and/or are aware of their dogs’ public behavior. Perhaps if people could recognize that the park is a shared space for the community, we wouldn’t have to rely on impolite police officers to enforce clear rules that we should be able to follow ourselves.

  • 3 Dawson // Aug 18, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    The regulations are already a farce…not enough PEP officers, too many selfish dog owners who think they own the park exclusively and may do whatever the hell they please, and the Parks Department that generally looks the other way because dog group members donate heavily to conservancies that fund the park. It’s true – you can buy whatever you want in NYC. This unfortunate woman was the “example” they will use to show the public that they are enforcing the law. It’s a joke.

  • 4 Noisejoke // Aug 18, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    Maybe the officer was pissy having been commanded to go out and make an example of someone. I have zero evidence but tend to think these sort of random enforcement events, much like ticketing double parkers during street cleaning, are usually in response to an angry crackpot or two making themselves a nuisance to the local precinct.

    But, is there a silver lining? Since this reported ticket was hand written, and the breed recorded incorrectly (though it’s a great dog NAME!), could it be dismissed much like when a car description is incorrect on a parking ticket? If the dog is licensed, and the license notes the breed, then this so-called “Rock Wilder” is surely not owned by the person summoned.

  • 5 david // Aug 18, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    You’re absolutely correct.

    What the officers should have done is encircle the park, take pics of all the dogs off leash and once having closed in on the dogs and their owners (not letting anyone escape the enclosing circle) fine all of them and take whoever could not/would not produce ID down to the precinct.

    Would that be fair and non-disgusting?

    Or are you above the law?

  • 6 Red Hook // Aug 18, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    People who enjoy the Neathermead should just agree to split the random tickets. A dollar a month seems like a good deal to continue to enjoy having the dogs off leash.

    As Noisejoke points out, the police do not want to enforce this or waste time writing citations for it. They will write a couple citations a month at most.

    So haha to all you dog haters. Nothing is going to change.

  • 7 Anonymous // Aug 18, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    Please do organize yourselves then. And stop complaining.

  • 8 Noisejoke // Aug 18, 2008 at 8:02 pm

    The fact is that being on the Nethermead after 9am or before 9pm is illegal. But, again without actual evidence, only based on my experience and observation, the majority of those dog owners who enjoy legal Off Leash Hours are not those who’s dogs are running rampant in the middle of the day knocking over bicyclists and scaring children. (I’d like to know more about the circumstances of the attacks against “Anoymous”@ 1:43 – what time, what area he/she, etc. was purportedly bitten twice)
    The Nethermead is a specific area and the dog action there isn’t displacing the ball players, hikers, bird watchers and especially the filth and garbag depositing barbecuers/picnic people.

    Go to fidobrooklyn.org if you’d like to find out more about the Nethermead and sign the petition seeking to have the 5pm time codified.

  • 9 Red Hook // Aug 18, 2008 at 9:36 pm

    It’s really the dog haters who complain. And then NYPD sends out people.

    So why don’t you stop complaining… and then you won’t hear any more complaints?

  • 10 Pashelle // Aug 23, 2008 at 11:56 am

    “Filth and garbag depositing barbecuers/picnic people”?

    Dogs deposit filth too. Hundreds of off leash dogs deposit filth all over the park on a daily basis, which is why I haven’t sat on the grass there in years. It’s impossible to totally clean dog waste from grass leaves, assuming the owner bothers to clean it up.

    The “dog action” has displaced me, because I can no longer enjoy tranquil after-work walks in the Nethermead, which used to be the quietest, most magical section of the park until the selfish dog owners ruined it.

    I’m not a dog hater. I have a dog, but I can’t stand off leash dogs annoying me in the park. If you must have them off leash, put them behind a fence where they can’t bother anybody else. Common sense, but not sensible enough for the greedy folks at FIDO, who won’t rest until the entire park is off leash 24/7/52. Pooping dogs are more important than picknickers…

  • 11 Orrin and Company // Aug 23, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    Birds must be banned from Prospect Park. All these offleash birds are depositing tons of guano on the park grass everyday. It’s disgusting, and I can’t use the grass because of this so-called “wildlife”. The selfish and greedy birder population thinks they own the park with their off-leash birds. I won’t even talk about the squirrels and their enablers the greedy and selfish BBQers who leave food all over so that the rodents can process it through their bowels and soil the grass so I can’t sit on it.

    I just hate so-called “wildlife”. It must be stopped.

    The park must be pristine for people like me use it as only I see fit.