Battling Dog Owners in DeLury Sq.

Rona Kluger, left, and Veronica Ryan-Silverberg head an effort to maintain DeLury Square. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib
Apr. 01, 2013

On a recent afternoon in DeLury Square, the pretty pocket park on Fulton Street, a dog scampered onto the lawn. It was a small dog, but one whose paws could easily trample a host of daffodils and whose urine could harm a bush or even a tree.

Veronica Ryan-Silverberg and Rona Kluger, standing nearby, looked fed up.

“I’ve told you five times, you can’t let your dog off-leash,” Ryan-Silverberg told the dog’s owner.

“Write me up,” the woman said defiantly.

“As you can see, they don’t listen,” Ryan-Silverberg groaned.

Ryan-Silverberg is used to that kind of confrontation. (A man once hit her when she asked him to curb his dog.) It began when she decided to rescue three-year-old DeLury Square from the dogs and garbage that were ruining the neatly landscaped little park, with its fountain, rock formations, flower beds and other plantings. The park, she said, was literally going to the dogs.

“The destruction of the plants was just not right,” said Ryan-Silverberg, a psychotherapist and a 30-year resident of the Southbridge Towers building next to the park. “There was no choice but to say something and do something.”

She started by talking to the management of Southbridge, who told her she had to contact the Parks Department.

“The Parks Department sent a representative,” Ryan-Silverberg recalled. “They gave us all sorts of tools to clean, and  Southbridge gave us a storage room to lock them up.” They also planted new bulbs and installed temporary fencing.

Next, she spent $200 on “No Dogs Allowed” signs that she placed on the lawn. There a now a dozen of them.

“Then I started thinking, ‘We need people to clean,’” she continued. “I sent a notice out, and that started Friends of DeLury Park. Now, we have a team of cleaners—60-plus-year-old ladies out here cleaning every single day. There are about six of us, maybe seven.”

Last month, she and Kluger, also a  Southbridge Towers resident, went be­fore Community Board 1’s Sea­port-Civ­ic Center Committee to discuss the dog problem and their need for funding for additional park maintenance. The committee  passed a resolution asking the Parks Department to make the square a dog-free park. (Under Parks rules, dogs are now permitted on the square’s walkways but not on the lawn.)

Kluger and Ryan-Silverberg believe that another step to take, with warm weather coming, is to convince the public to respect this tiny patch of urban parkland.

She and Ryan-Silverberg decry work­ers who leave their trash behind after having lunch in the park.

“Maybe we have to have an educational campaign,” Kluger suggested. “Some­thing like, ‘We’re really sorry, but you can’t do everything you want in life.’”

“The city did this beautiful job, they spent a lot of money,” she added. “It should be lovely, but it’s not lovely, because it’s not well-kept.”

Ryan-Silverberg agrees.

“Their ex­cuse is, ‘My dog likes to go in here,’ or, ‘I’m picking up after the dog,’ which is not sufficient,” she said. “What I’m so surprised at is, they don’t understand that it’s destructive to the environment.”

Ryan-Silverberg, who is organizing a spring planting day in May, has taken gardening classes at the Brooklyn Bo­tanic Garden since forming the Friends group. She said she wanted to learn “what plants are resistant, what will really last, and what will save us money.”

She and her volunteers won’t let up until they achieve their goal of keeping the square a pristine refuge from the hustle and bustle of Fulton Street.

“This isn’t just another dirty street in New York City,” she said. “This is our front yard, and it will be for a very long time.”

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