A place for pooches
New dog run among several developer givebacks
by Art Schwartz
Reporter staff writer
Apr 13, 2014 | 4435 views | 0 0 comments | 59 59 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dog Run
OPEN FOR BUSINESS – Cutting the ribbon on the new Weehawken dog park on April 1 is Mayor Richard Turner, joined by (from left) Hartz Mountain Industries President and COO Emanuel Stern, Council Member Robert Sosa, Mr. Sosa’s mother, Council Members Rosemary Lavagnino, Carmela Silvestri Ehret, and Robert Zucconi.
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The newest real estate amenity in the neighborhood is so upscale it practically needs a doorman. Or would that be a doordog?

Just north of The Estuary, the new three-building luxury rental complex on the waterfront in Weehawken, Hartz Mountain recently opened a dog park facing the city, so that pooches can enjoy the view while their humans do whatever humans do.

“We have many long-term dog-lovers in Weehawken,” said 2nd Ward Councilwoman Rosemary Lavagnino, one the administrators who encouraged the creation of the dog park. “And we have a new population coming in. They’re buying some of our homes, the older homes, and turning some of the two-, three-, four-families into one-family. And they all, inevitably, are expanding their families, and they all, inevitably, will buy dogs.”
“Donating an acre of land on the waterfront is a very, very expensive commodity so it was no small donation.” – Richard Turner
“One of the conditions that we arrived at for the Planning Board,” said 1st Ward Councilwoman Carmela Silvestri Ehret, who sits on the Planning Board and was involved in pushing for the park, “was to have a dog run in this location. When [Hartz Mountain] came to us with the project, we said, you’ve got a lot of property down there and we need a dog run. Let’s see if we can work it out. And they were very, very receptive. It’s great for the location, it’s great for them, and it’s great for our townspeople.”

“None of this was paid for with taxpayer dollars,” said Mayor Richard Turner. “This was all done with developers. Part of the giveback is, you want to build, you have to give back to the community. So it works out well.”

In addition to donating the land, Hartz will maintain the property. “We try to always fit in something that they can do for us, because that way it’s a win-win situation,” said Silvestri Ehret. “And at no cost to the town. What more could we ask for?”

More development coming

Unlike at many dog parks, the ground is covered by grass. Shaped in a semicircle, it features a double water fountain -- for dogs and their humans.

“I’ve been in a lot of dog runs around the county, and this place is just spectacular,” said Councilman Robert Sosa. “The surface is perfect for all dogs. It has water, and I see we have the most essential item, doggie bags.”

“It’s nice because there’s no tall buildings,” said Silvestri Ehret. “It gets the sun all day long. It’s facing the perfect way to get all the good weather.”

“It cost approximately half a million dollars to build,” said Mayor Turner. “Donating an acre of land on the waterfront is a very, very expensive commodity so it was no small donation.”

Two playgrounds to come

In fact, the three-quarter acre dog park is only part of the land donation from Hartz Mountain. Across Harbor Blvd., where the summer concerts take place, they donated an additional quarter acre to the town.

“That’s a two-acre park now,” said Mayor Turner. “We’re going to have two playgrounds there for toddlers. And then we have five acres of land that we bought over there that’s not developed.”

Beyond that is the town’s 10-acre recreation complex. “When it’s all said and done,” said Turner, “we’re going to have 17, 18 acres, which will be the biggest variety of things to do—passive, dog runs, recreation—the biggest thing since Liberty State Park on the riverfront.”

Plans are in development for the area that is still fallow. “We want to put a multi-use building in,” said Turner. “We thought about a pool complex but we’re just getting back from the recession. It’s a lot of money. A pool’s a lot of money, like $8 million, $10 million.”

Dogs are people too

Numerous neighborhood dogs and their people attended the opening ceremony for the dog park on April 1, where Mayor Turner cut the celebratory ribbon, accompanied by Hartz Mountain President and COO Emanuel Stern and all the town council members.

“You know, dogs are people too,” said Councilman Sosa, who brought his dog Biggy to the ceremony. Biggy is a miniature Pinscher, or min-pin. He has traveled across country and to Costa Rica.

“They become our children,” said Sosa about Biggy. “They’re very, very important to us. I’ll tell you how important he is: he was the first dog ever to attend one of the council meetings. That’s because I got locked out of my home once. I told the mayor, well I have to go with my dog.”

“And the dog voted much better than the councilman,” joked the mayor.

The park will be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. All are invited, two-legged or four.

Art Schwartz may be reached at arts@hudsonreporter.com.

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