Once upon a time--and this goes back to the beginning of this century--someone complained at a Common Council meeting--or maybe it was a DPW Committee meeting--about dog poop in Seventh Street Park. In response to this, dogs were immediately banned from all city parks. With a speed amazing to people who've been trying for years to get better parking signs throughout the city, NO DOGS ALLOWED signs appeared, almost overnight, at the entrance to every park.
The problem was that what the signs proclaimed was unenforceable because the Common Council had never passed a law banning dogs from parks. As a consequence the police could not ticket people caught walking a dog in a park. The issue of making it the law came before the Common Council soon after the first section of Henry Hudson Riverfront Park was completed in about 2002. DPW workers in particular wanted dogs banned from the new park because dog poop was fouling the blades of the lawn mowers.
Dog owners appealed to the Common Council, arguing that better signage informing dog walkers of their responsibilities, better enforcement, and stiffer penalties were what was needed rather than simply banning dogs from parks. The most persuasive appeal was made by Margaret Saliske on behalf of her mother, who was then a familiar sight walking with her dog around the courthouse and on Warren Street. Saliske told the Council that her mother felt safer walking with her dog and often liked, on her walks, to sit in a park, but she couldn't do that if the parks were off limits to dogs. Doc Donahue was moved by this appeal to withdraw his support for banning dogs from parks, and a compromise was reached: Dogs would be allowed in all city parks except the new waterfront park.
When the first expansion of waterfront park was completed five or so years ago, many dog owners believed that the law prohibiting dogs applied only to the original part of the park--the area north of the path from the entrance to the gazebo, the "great lawn" where people sat on the ground for concerts and events--and felt they could walk their dogs with impunity--so long as they cleaned up after their pets--on the paths and on the grass around the inlets in the new part of the park. A sign that appeared recently offers tacit confirmation of that interpretation of the law.