Muddy Upper West Side dog run could finally see reconstruction this summer

The  conditions at the Bull Moose Dog Run in Theodore Roosevelt Park on the Upper West Side has long been the subject of debate.  Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

Construction at the mosquito breeding ground is now slated to start in July and last for a year, a spokeswoman for the Parks Department said.

The  conditions at the Bull Moose Dog Run in Theodore Roosevelt Park on the Upper West Side has long been the subject of debate. 
The  conditions at the Bull Moose Dog Run in Theodore Roosevelt Park on the Upper West Side has long been the subject of debate.  Photo Credit: Li Yakira Cohen

A long-awaited reconstruction project at a muddy dog run that “resembles a bog” could finally kick off this summer — but only after languishing for years despite residents’ best efforts to get it moving.

The Bull Moose Dog Run in Theodore Roosevelt Park on the Upper West Side, which floods every time it rains, acts as a breeding ground for mosquitoes and is often littered with sharp stones loosened by water erosion, say residents who bring their pups there.

“There is no drainage. It just floods and floods from fence to fence,” said Upper West Side resident Rich Weil.

Weil said he and several other dog owners were forced to rake up sharp stones last summer, moving them into tree pits where their dogs wouldn’t step on them. His  French bulldog cut its toe on one of the stones. And once, Weil said, he spotted a rat crawling through the water.

Work is slated to finally begin in July 2019 at the dog park situated near the Museum of Natural History.
Work is slated to finally begin in July 2019 at the dog park situated near the Museum of Natural History. Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

Efforts to mitigate issues at the dog run date to 2011, when a small group of dog owners fed up with its “deplorable” condition banded together to form the Bull Moose Dog Run Association, board member Janne Appelbaum said.

Despite support and funding from local lawmakers and a promised project from the city Parks Department, the dog run has yet to see any improvements.

Parks officials said the work needed to reconstruct the run and fix the drainage was more extensive than expected. Construction at the dog run is now slated to start in July and last for a year, a spokeswoman for the  department said.

Meanwhile, owners who  take their pups to the run in the summer leave covered in mosquito bites, said resident Dave Sturek. Dogs leave the run “all wet and muddy, which is no fun,” he added.

Members of the association presented their vision for a renovated run to Community Board 7 in February 2013 — after months of planning and conversations with the run’s users.

Then-City Councilwoman Gale Brewer, who is now Manhattan Borough president,  allocated $250,000 for renovations, Appelbaum said.

The Parks Department presented its reconstruction plan to Community Board 7 in 2017, with an estimated cost of $440,000. Along with solving the drainage problem and reconstructing the run, it would reconfigure the small dog area, provide ADA-accessible seating areas and protect existing mature trees.

Since then, the cost of the project has ballooned to $684,000, the department’s spokeswoman confirmed. Some minor edits have been made to the 2017 plan, including adding boulders for dog play and changing the wood  to be used for bench slats, the spokeswoman said.

 She said the $250,000 “preliminary estimate” for the project increased after the department found that “the work that [was] needed was more extensive than expected.” The budget also grew due to the cost of materials and “inflation and the procurement process,” she noted.

A few dog owners said they felt the new cost was excessive. Several residents also expressed dismay over the estimated year-long construction time, which will put the run out of commission.

“It’s been frustrating to see how long it’s taken, and of course, the cost of it is ridiculous, from my point of view,” Sturek said.

Appelbaum and fellow dog run association board member Jane Beal, meanwhile, said they grew discouraged by what they described as “radio silence” from the Parks Department.

“I think we lost steam because nothing happened,” Beal said.

Last month, Assemb. Linda Rosenthal fired off a letter to Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver, expressing “exasperation and deep concern” over the fact the repair project didn’t begin after Brewer allocated funding six years ago.

“In the meantime, my constituents and their animals have been left to continue using a muddied dog run that more closely resembles a bog than it does a dog run,” she wrote.

While there may be an end in sight to what several dog owners described as a “saga,” Appelbaum called the experience “a demoralizing lesson in dealing with the powers that be.”

Her own dog, a schnauzer mix named Arthur, passed away in April 2015.

“It is not the sort of scenario that encourages public service,” she said. “It’s really a slap in the face to our community.”

Maya Rajamani