Ithaca, N.Y. — Seth Sicroff reached far into the literary canon Wednesday night as he tried to persuade Ithaca’s council to allow dogs to walk on the newly renovated Commons.

The 21st Century Library Campaign – Tompkins County Public Library

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Sicroff, a downtown Ithaca resident and the owner of two Irish Wolfhounds, turned to Homer’s “The Odyssey” and spoke of Odysseus’ return to Ithaca after the war in Troy and decades of struggling to get home.

“All those years of wandering, alone and disguised for his safety, the only one to recognize (Odysseus) was Argos, his old hound,” Sicroff said. “Wag of the tail, a licked knuckle, and the dog died in peace. …

“That should be a sculpture and it should be the highlight of our Commons, an icon of welcome that people all over the country will talk about.”

If Ithaca’s Common Council found the allusion to Greek myth convincing, they didn’t show it.

It quickly became clear at City Hall Wednesday night that Ithaca’s alderpersons wouldn’t support the proposal to allow Fluffy and Fido on the new Commons. The proposal was rejected in a unanimous 9-0 vote. (Alderperson Steve Smith wasn’t in attendance.)

Odysseus shown here in Francesco Hayez’s famous early 1800s painting. A reference to the Greek hero did not convince Ithaca officials to approve allowing dogs on the Commons. (Courtesy Wikimedia)

“You leave your dogs at home, just like you leave your kids at home when you’re going somewhere where it’s not appropriate for your kids to go,” said Ellen McCollister, a Common Council member.

Downtown Ithaca Alliance officials had suggested that the idea to encourage tourism and put the city more in line with dog-friendly trends nationwide. They also made the point that dogs already go to the Commons.

Above, what you will not be seeing on the Ithaca Commons

However, a series of speakers at City Hall Wednesday night mostly expressed their opposition to the idea. Adil Griguihi, who owns the Casablanca Pizza Shop on the Commons, said the city should focus on finishing the construction rather than on allowing dogs downtown.

Similarly, Ithaca resident Faye Gougakis said “allowing more dogs would give us a greater problem than already exists.” Louis “Lou” Cassaniti, a Commons hot dog vendor, also opposed the plan.

Council members expressed similar concerns.

Council member JR Clairborne added, “Is it going to put its leg up on the tree? … It only takes one.”

“I think there are a whole bunch of unpredictable factors that are just enormous,” he said.

Council members Donna Fleming and Josephine Martell also opposed allowing dogs on the Commons.

“I’d hate to see the investment get trashed,” said Martell of the new Commons, adding that she also was worried about violent dogs or dogs that spread their refuse.

Council member Deb Mohlenhoff added that there was even recently an incident of two dogs in a “vicious” incident during Chili Fest.

“I have some real concerns about dogs on the Commons,” she said.


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.