BPC Dog Runs, Public Restrooms, Ball Fields, Eyed for Cautious Reopening

Battery Park City's dog runs reopened on June 22. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Posted
Jun. 05, 2020

Update 6/16/20: The Battery Park City Authority announced that the Wagner Park and Teardrop Park restrooms are now open from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Update 6/22/20: The Authority announced today that the Battery Park City dog runs are open seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Users of the run will do their own cleaning from 4 p.m. until 7:30 a.m. the next morning.

Ever so cautiously, the locks will be coming off of some much missed public facilities in Battery Park City, shuttered for months during the pandemic.

Battery Park City Authority officials say the neighborhood’s dog runs and public bathrooms will likely open this month, though with limited hours. Under discussion is reopening the ball fields for “passive” recreation only.

“We want to get them open as soon as we can,” said Nick Sbordone, the Authority’s vice president for communications and public affairs, who spoke on Wednesday to the remote meeting of Community Board 1’s Battery Park City Committee.

“Between now and June 22,” Sbordone said later, “I’d be comfortable that we would have at the very least the restrooms open, and hopefully the dog runs as well.”

PUBLIC RESTROOMS

Lack of access to the restrooms has led to an uptick in complaints about public urination, leading to an added urgency to reopen them. 

“I’ve seen multiple men peeing in public along our parks,” said committee member Sarah Cassell. “Any alleviation to the problem,” she added, “would make me more comfortable on my strolls.”

Sbordone said the restrooms will initially be open from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., seven days a week. At an unspecified later date they would close at 6:30 p.m. (Normal hours were 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.) The reason for the limited hours, he said, is reduced staffing.

“Given where we are with resources and seasonal hiring, which is not going to happen this year because there’s a hiring freeze across the state, it’s not clear that we’re going to get back this year to the full 9 p.m. closing.”

Some on the committee expressed particular concerns about the shuttered restroom in Wagner Park. Visitors who take out drinks from the park’s Gigino’s restaurant, they say, often remain in the area. A resolution from the committee called on the Authority to keep the Wagner Park restroom open as late as Gigino’s, and extend the planned closing hours of the other facilities.

THE DOG RUN

Sbordone said the dog runs would initially be open from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. (coinciding with one staffing shift), and eventually extend to a 7 p.m. closing. He gave the committee the option of keeping the run open, 24 hours a day, with cleaning between 7 p.m. and the next morning left to the people who use it. The committee agreed with the latter plan.

Jeff Galloway, an active member of the BPC Dog Association, said dog owners would be willing to do their own cleaning up after 7 p.m. “You’re going to see how responsible people are in terms of social distancing and other things,” he said. “There is a pent-up demand, and with the weather getting nicer and the frequency of illness going remarkably down, people are going to be wanting to be getting out.”

THE BALL FIELDS

The 85,000 square feet of turf on the now-closed Battery Park City ball fields could provide some welcome open space, especially on weekends when nearby Rockefeller Park is heavily used. With sports activities still off limits in all parks, and social distancing the rule, only more leisurely activities would be allowed on the fields. The committee wrestled with the question of whether those rules could be enforced, and what activities would go over the line.

“Twenty-five people setting up soccer nets and running back and forth, that’s probably not going to fly,” Sbordone said.” If it’s my daughter and I'm rolling a ball back and forth, that’s different. It’s kind of nebulous but you would know when you would see it.” The Authority is considering opening the fields from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., he said.

“I want to open things up as much as possible,” said Bob Schneck, who noted that Rockefeller Park is “mostly pretty calm.”

“People are aching for a place to work out because the gyms are closed,” said Amy Goethe.

“It’s a great idea but the execution is going to be very difficult, so much so that I don’t think it’s worth going forward,” said committee member Eric Gyasi. “How do you define active and passive? I don’t think the [Allied Universal Ambassadors] should be in a position of policing that. I don’t think that’s going to go well for them.”

Eric Munson, the Authority’s chief operating officer, indicated that the fields will open, with prudence. “Before we throw open the gates, I would want to test it out over a period of time in light of the fact that it’s such a significant change in the use of the field and it is a really large space,” he said. “With my anxiety sparked, I would want to make sure that it doesn’t get out of control too quickly.”

One idea floated by the committee is a running track at the perimeter of the field to allow for more vigorous yet safe exercise that could bring some runners off the heavily used path along West Street. The committee and Authority agreed to devise a plan by next month’s meeting for how the reopened fields will be managed.

Comments? Write to carlg@tribecatrib.com

Comments

City needs to help kids starved for outdoor play

As a parent of 3 kids, Our kids need something. There are no playgrounds, ball fields, pools, camps open. Our kids have been inside and doing nothing for months. This isn’t good for them mentally. They need to go outside and have fun. We can protest, dogs can get wet and run in a park. But kids can’t do anything. I think the city really needs to do something about this fast. Lots of kids finished school already and there is nothing for them. Maybe someone needs to do a story on how this is hurting our kids… —TONI WICKHAM

Open the fields only for sitting and relaxing, not active play

Engaging in any sporting activity that will result in unsafe contact between adults and children should  be prohibited. The ballfields should be opened to the public but only for activities like sitting and relaxing at safe distances to quell the spread of the coronavirus. Just because it’s a ballfield doesn’t mean that physical activity has to occur there, especially now. I’ve seen Rockefeller Park recently, where people are gathering at unsafe distances, engaging in light sports causing close contact in too many instances. We already know it’s not recommended to be close to other people both inside and outside. And many people including kids are not wearing masks. I walk passed West Thames Park every afternoon during the week and kids are kicking soccer balls and otherwise playing at very unsafe distances, mostly without masks. The ballfields can be used for sitting, picnicing and sun bathing. We should not engage in any activity that results in close contact. I am a strong proponent of youth sports (I was on the Downtown Little League board and currently coordinate the Manhattan Youth Friday Night Volleyball league for over 170 kids) but we just have to take a PAUSE, be safe and patient until we can resume regular physical activity at the ballfields.  — MARSHAL COLEMAN