Ruppert Park’s latest revamp adds a dog run and a nice UES board

UPPER EAST SIDE, NY — The city’s latest plans to reinvent Ruppert Park include an option that includes a dog race, addressing objections from neighbors that the original proposal lacked play space for pooches.

Representatives from the Parks Department shared the new plans Thursday at a Community Board 8 meeting, a month after they first visited the council to unveil an early vision for the revamp of the much-loved but awkwardly landscaped green space at the heart of Yorkville.

In what parks staff Steve Simon called a “somewhat unusual” step, the city is now presenting two different options for Ruppert’s $8.9 million revamp.

Wide concrete paths and metal fences divide the park into four quadrants, and the overgrowth has resulted in patches of dirt instead of grass. (New York Parks)

The first closely resembles the December plan, centered on a pair of passive lawns near the center of the park; a relocated playground with new equipment that incorporates the natural slope of the park; and accessibility improvements that will make the park more wheelchair friendly.

“Option B,” meanwhile, includes all of these elements, but notably adds a dog run in the northeast corner of the park. This same location is currently home to an informal dog run that residents live on an unsightly, grassless plot.

Residents had been appalled by the lack of an official dog park in the December plan, saying it would rob the neighborhood of space for pets and also encourage dog owners to hang out in other parts of the park, leading to sanitation problems.

Side-by-side views of the proposed redesign of Ruppert Park without a dog enclosure (left, “Option A”) and the plan with a dog enclosure (right, “Option B”). The community board committee voted to recommend option B. (NYC Parks)

This time most of the neighbors seemed happy with the addition.

“It’s so fabulous, I’m so excited,” said Sahar Husain, a member of Muslim Volunteers for New York, who has long cared for Ruppert Park and led the campaign for its renovation.

Final vote expected in February

Sprawling on Second Avenue between East 90th and 91st streets, Ruppert Park dates from the 1970s and is showing its age. Wide concrete walkways and metal fences divide the park into four quadrants, outdated play equipment limits children’s enjoyment of the park; hilly areas pose accessibility problems; and overgrown vegetation blocks sunlight and attracts insects, among other problems.

Some dissident residents at Thursday’s meeting argued that the one-acre park should be all about children and families rather than dogs, given the Upper East Side’s lack of green space. At 1,750 acres, Ruppert’s dog enclosure would be considerably smaller than those at other parks like Bull Moose on the Upper West Side or Corlears Hook on the Lower East Side.

A drawing of the proposed playground, with the park’s natural hill incorporated as a lookout point. (New York Parks)

To add the dog enclosure to its plan, the parks department moved empty space that had been set aside for an as yet unfunded comfort station from the northeast corner to the southeast corner of the park.

Other small changes from the original plan include redesigning the four-foot fence that will separate the park’s play area from its lawn, allowing it to “intertwine” with vegetation rather than block views from a footpath.

The council’s parks committee ultimately voted 5-2 to approve the dog enclosure plan, and the full community council will vote next month on whether or not to recommend the project. Renovations will take about a year once construction begins, but it’s unclear when that will be.

The existing slope of Ruppert Park (top) will be made more gradual (bottom), as shown in these side elevations. (New York Parks)

The park occupies the former site of the Jacob Ruppert & Company brewery, which closed in 1965 and was replaced by the Ruppert Towers apartment complex, as well as the park, which opened in 1979.

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