October 12, 2022

Council Endorses Resolutions for Dog Parks

By Anne Levin

There was applause from the audience at a meeting of Princeton Council on Monday, October 10, following a vote by the Council in favor of two resolutions establishing dog parks in the municipality.

The governing body voted unanimously to authorize installation of a temporary dog park in a section of Community Park South, and a pilot program for off-leash dogs at Quarry Park on Spruce Street. Several residents spoke, at the live meeting and over Zoom, in favor of the resolutions.

“I’m thrilled that this is happening. It has been such a long time coming,” said a resident of Cedar Lane, who said her son advocated establishing a dog park for his bar mitzvah project and has now graduated from college. A presentation was most recently made to Council about establishing dog parks nearly a year ago.

The 90-day pilot program for the Quarry Park site will go into effect November 1, and will be operational between 7 and 9 a.m. The second authorizes temporary fencing at a mostly unused athletic field at Community Park South, with separate areas for small and large dogs. The cost of the fencing is not to exceed $10,000.

Mayor Mark Freda expressed concern about dogs being able to run without being fenced in at Quarry Park, saying it is too close to Harrison Street and children are nearby. But that area has served unofficially as a dog park for several years, and there have been no incidents, said Councilwoman Mia Sacks, who was instrumental in bringing the resolutions forward.

“There are about 20 to 30 dogs there each morning, and there is not been a single incident to either a child or a dog. Off-leash is something that exists throughout Manhattan and the five boroughs,” she said, adding that dogs act less aggressively when they are not leashed.

Dog parks have not previously been established legally in Princeton, which is why the Quarry Park program is a pilot. “If there is any issue with it, we will terminate it,” Sacks said. “It has been a major success in New York City. I feel very confident it can work. If it doesn’t, after 90 days we can pull the plug.”

Ideally, she said, there would eventually

be a dog park established outside of town for the whole community, with a number of smaller parks to which residents of different neighborhoods can walk.

Also at the meeting, Council held public hearings on two ordinances. One, to regulate public parking spaces for the charging of electric vehicles at Spring Street Garage and the municipal lot at 400 Witherspoon Street was unanimously approved. The other, to establish a residential parking district on Bank Street, was more problematic. After much discussion, including several comments from residents, Council voted to defeat the ordinance, with David Cohen and Leticia Fraga, who are on the Permit Parking Task Force, casting the only votes in favor.

The ordinance would have established a lottery, with 13 spots being competed for by 24 residences. Longtime resident Chip Crider commented that residents would have less than a 50 percent chance of securing a spot. “We got into this mess because of COVID,” he said, when parking enforcement was not as strict. “I think you should table this, try reinstating enforcement, and then tweak it a little. To put it in now will have a lot of angry people.”

Council members Leighton Newlin, Eve Niedergang, and Sacks all thanked the municipal staff and members of the task force for their work on the issue, but said more needs to be done. “We do not have a consensus,” said Newlin. “This is a very tough needle to thread.”

Several other resolutions were passed at the meeting, including one endorsing an application designating a special deer management area and community-based deer management plan, carried over from the September 27 meeting. Two ordinances were introduced related to loading zones and parking fees on Witherspoon Street between Nassau and Spring streets.

The next meeting of Council is Monday, October 24.