It’s a watershed moment for Downtown.
As new residents move in to the predominantly commercial area, so too are residents’ dogs, and, in an area unaccustomed to the needs of a 24-7 population, there are very few places where residents can walk — and relieve — their Fidos and Fifis.
The open space most convenient to many of the buildings — including the BellTel Lofts at Bridge and Willoughby streets — is the green commons within the Metrotech campus, between Jay Street and Flatbush Avenue Extension.
But the management company that oversees the complex recently prohibited dogs from the area, roping off the commons and posing bright yellow signs that read, “No dogs on the grass, please.”
(That said, there is a very realistic statue of a yellow Labrador Retriever standing at the ready, next to the sign.)
In the early mornings, the ritual of taking one’s dog out for a quick walk is now as much a part of the Metrotech Commons traffic as is corporate workers who are early to work, snagging their hot coffee and darting into office buildings.
Even during a quick walk in the evenings, it is common to see young women walking their small, fluffy lapdogs and larger, beefier men run past with their bulldogs.
Young mothers now bring their children play in the grass, and but carefully steer their dogs away from the same inviting lawns.
Sanitation is the biggest issue, explained Metrotech Business Improvement Director Mike Weiss, who said he is working with residents to find proper accommodations for the growing canine population.
“[We are] certainly willing to have people sit there on a blanket — that’s not prohibited — but it conflicts with the dog thing because if the dog is doing his number on the lawn, it could be unsanitary,” Weiss said. “You can just clean up so much, and you can’t clean up wet stuff.”
Metrotech isn’t the only place in Downtown that isn’t accustomed to dogs, neighbors said. Amy Troni, who moved to the BellTel Lofts building after 16 years in Manhattan, said she often gets stares as she runs her errands around the neighborhood, Max in tow.
“People on Fulton Mall look at dogs like they’re foreign. I see people scurrying to the side and trying to avoid him,” Troni said. “He’s not going to do anything! It’s weird. I’ve never had that experience.”
Troni recalled the time she and her husband went to a sneaker store along Fulton Mall, but Max wasn’t allowed inside.
“I had to stand outside with Max — it’s like I’m shunned too,” she said.
Earlier this year, the Parks Department suggested including a dog run in McLaughlin Park, which is at Jay and Tillary streets, as part of a current $1.13-million renovation. But Community Board 2 rejected the plan because, among other reasons, the dog run — and its noise — was too close to the Concord Village apartments located across Jay Street, said District Manager Rob Perris. Also, many dog owners in Concord Village said they took their pets to nearby Cadman Plaza Park anyway.
But the community board may reconsider a dog run in McLaughlin Park or discuss prime spots for the pooch paddocks elsewhere in the community, Perris said.
In the meantime, the problem is giving new residents logistical problems they never imagined they’d face in their new neighborhood.
“You just try to find places, but there’s nothing really in the immediate [area]. I just don’t have time to go too far before I have to go to work,” said Troni.
“When I come home, I’ll take my cocker spaniel Max for a longer walk in Fort Greene or Cadman Plaza, but it’s a hike. I definitely have to invest an hour of my time or more for a decent walk to get somewhere,” she added.
But the temporary solution for other residents is causing even more kinds of new problems: “Now we’re having a problem because a lot of the dogs are doing their business in front of the [BellTel] building, and the smell is starting to be pretty strong,” said Francesca Sorrenti, a BellTel board member.
“The more buildings that come in here, the more problems we’re going to have,” she added. “The bottom line is, ‘Where do you go with the dog?