To the Editor—
I am pleading with the City of Ithaca’s Mayor and Common Council to delay any action to allow dogs on the Commons. I have come to city government and the Downtown Ithaca Alliance many times about the impacts of rogue canines. Having lived on the Commons for a decade, I know all of its noise issues. The concrete and narrow corridor amplify sounds of all types and the effects are cumulative.
COVID has also kept us at home more, unable to escape noisy situations. Dog barking is continuous at all hours of the day and night and is unpredictable, unlike a set schedule of events and concerts. Buskers are often accompanied by dogs that bark. We do not have enough police to promptly respond to noise complaints.
Dogs urinate and defecate on the Commons. Cleaning dog poop leaves a smear which still gets stepped on and transported by wheels or shoes to indoor environments, many of which are carpeted. Pressure cleaning can disseminate the feces further and make it airborne, as we’ve seen in the past with bird droppings. The city will also bear the expense of extra labor and cleaning. Staff that works on beautifying the Commons planters can be subjected to the poop.
Dogs bark and fight with each other. When events were allowed on the Commons they were crowded with dogs at close quarters. Some people feel unsafe and uncomfortable around them. Patrons of stores tie up their dogs on the Commons while they shop inside. I have experienced all of the above from dog owners, some of whom can be irresponsible.
Some have justified repeal of the rules because tourists don’t respect them, which isn’t true. I have encountered many who do follow them with care and respect. The laws of the Commons don’t have to be unwelcoming. We have them so we can co-exist and acknowledge that dogs can have a negative impact, which without the rules are hard to control. Taking the dog regulations away will leave no protection from unruly dogs and irresponsible dog owners, some of whom do not leash their dogs properly, which can lead to dog bites. Maintaining the ban does not prevent anyone from supporting downtown businesses.
We must have more emphasis on education, through public outreach in pamphlets, signage, information on the city website, and City/DIA representatives on the Commons. We have a number of laws protecting the Commons. Chipping away at them will only serve to enable a lack of cooperation.
The process must also be democratic. I received no notice of this pending decision. We need a public hearing after COVID subsides with ample notification beforehand, so concerned parties who so choose can be physically present in Common Council chambers.
This is not a minor change. I ask that any action to reverse the existing law be delayed. Please take time to reflect on these concerns. Give your input to Council by writing them at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s make this work for all of us.
Be safe, Wear a mask, be kind, and happy holidays.