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.
Chelsea Waterside Park (Where the West Side Highway and 11th Ave merge at 22nd Street, near Chelsea Piers)
Basic Stats: A not-dirt, well-maintained run (thanks, Hudson River Trust!) that seems like a bitch to get to, even if you live in the neighborhood.
Placement in the Park: The park itself is basically a glorified traffic island-- there’s a nice area for kids to play with a separate playground on the northern end of the “park,” but you’ve got many lanes of cars on either side.
Vibe Inside: As you can see by the photos, the vibe when I went there was eerily quiet. It was early evening on a beautiful spring Saturday, which, even in the not-afternoon, usually makes for crowds in the dog runs I’m more familiar with. There were also lots of people in the other parts of the park, so really, it was just the run that was a ghost town. That said, it’s a nice layout with lots of seating and a fountain, all perks of being run, not by the city, but by the Hudson River Trust, which sponsors all of Hudson River Park. The sad fact is, any nice park in New York is underwritten by private dollars, and even then, most dog runs are maintained by volunteers. That this park was built with private bucks, however, makes it a lot sleeker than your usual mud pit.
Cons: If you don’t live in Chelsea, there is no easy way to get to the Waterside Run; taking even a small dog on public transportation is a pain in the ass, and all the MTA offers to the area right now is the M22 bus. Even if you live nearby--and if you do, mazel tov on your success--the run does have a quasi-Concrete Island-vibe, like the J.G. Ballard book about a guy whose car crashes at the intersection of three major highways and he ends up trapped on the “island” with no escape. Sure, there are crosswalks, but as settings for dog runs go, this would be one of the least serene. Also, natch, no bags.
Pros: The landscaped mounds, pavement, and ample water sources are probably great fun for the dogs to prance around. There’s also lots of shade and seating. Again though, I really can’t say enough good things about paved dog runs-- I met a friend in a dirt-based run last week, and the dry, windy weather made us feel like we were in a dramatic reenactment from Ken Burns’ The Dust Bowl.
Food?: There are vending machines at Chelsea Piers across the highway and some vendors in the park in general, but unless you can eat expensive art at the galleries nearby, pack a lunch. Or plan to stroll down the highline and try and find something there (and enjoy an actual placid scene).