Obviously, the number one factor in choosing a dog run is how far is it from your home. For the sake of reference, however, we’re going to attempt to compile info on as many NYC dog runs as humanly possible, because you never know when you’re going to move, a jerk is going to move onto your regular run turf, or your dog may wish to move his bowels somewhere else.
Tompkins Square Park (inside the park, closest entrance at 9th Street and Avenue A)
Basic Stats: Tompkins Square’s dog run has a reputation of being “intense;” they call themselves “First Run” after their spot in history as the first dog run sanctioned by the city’s Parks Department. They run workshops with the ASPCA, have a volunteer committee, and a mayor (sometimes co-mayors, even). One of the rare runs where the dogs have made me less nervous than the people. There are separate runs for big and small dogs, water and pools (in season), but no bags.
Placement in the Park: Being in the middle of the park means fewer passers-by and bikes, which is always good for the dogs in terms of keeping them from being spooked or bark-y. The park itself is well-maintained and nothing like the squatters paradise it was twenty (yikes) years ago.
Vibe Inside: For many years, the East Village was ground zero for gentrification; even now that the artists have been driven off to Brooklyn (and from Brooklyn to upstate), the park has gotten a makeover, and Iggy Pop has flipped his high rise condo on Avenue B, the projects along Avenue D remain, forcing the neighborhood to keep from floating into West Village levels of upscale. One place where that tension between old and new residents often plays out is in the dog run, where the small dog run was created to keep the influx of poodle-pups safe from the pit bulls that are more popular further east. When I was there in the small dog run, a few new school residents were scolding an older (and old school) woman whose poodle was pretty humpy. Perhaps the dog had been aggressive before I got there, but I’d never seen people get that upset over humpy behavior, because any casual viewer of The Dog Whisperer knows that, if all the dogs involved are fixed, humping is usually a harmless way to display dominance. The way these people were reacting you’d think this poodle was a serial rapist. Given how my dog often mounts other dogs to provoke them into chasing him (i.e., running around, which is why I dragged him to a stupid dog run in the first place), I left before being an edict from the mayor to run me out of town.
Cons: The attitude. Plus, no bags, and, this time of year, throngs of teenagers who come in from the suburbs thinking they can live in and around the park until September, as if the East Village were just a Crust Punk Sleepaway Camp. They’re ten times worse than the gnarliest of the old timers and the snobbiest of the stroller set. The park itself is also not that close to public transportation (except the bus).
Pros: Because the run has such a dedicated following, it’s well-maintained with minimal poop and conflict.