Residents hound for dog park in heated North Hills meeting

Residents hound for dog park in heated North Hills meeting
A resident speaking to the North Hills' Board of Trustees on May 18, 2022. (Photo by Steven Keehner)

Residents argued with the North Hills Board of Trustees, emphasizing their desire for a village-owned dog park during a meeting on Wednesday night.

A potential dog park was not on the village meeting agenda. But, when the meeting’s “new business” section came up, a resident’s comment triggered a debate.

“We have many, many dog owners in the community that I have been speaking with and I am here to represent them,” said Rhonda Siskin, a resident. “We are one of the few villages in Nassau County that does not have its own dog park.”

Although Christopher Morley Park is in North Hills and has a dog park, it is owned by Nassau County. Siskin expressed worries about the park’s status during the meeting.

“There’s no security and there are individuals coming in there drinking alcohol,” she said. “I personally have had several incidents there over the years, as have many other people — it’s not maintained.”

When Siskin suggested placing a dog park near North Hill’s Lowell H. Kane Park, Mayor Marvin Natiss expressed support for keeping children’s safety a top priority.

“I’m not going to be argumentative, but the resident children are more important,” he said. “Their safety is more important to me.”

There was then a discussion about securing a dog park’s perimeter. Natiss said that the safety of his residents and the potential liability associated with any dog incident deterred him.

Maureen Ditata, another local, pointed out that Morley Park includes both a community center and a dog park, so that shouldn’t be an issue.

“We have more than $37 million in our community amenities budget,” she said. “Let’s give it a whirl. Let’s find out. There are many dog owners in this community and dog parks that exist in children’s parks.”

Ditata then urged audience members to rise if they supported a dog park. Twelve residents stood up in response, accounting for more than half of the audience.

Natiss expressed his displeasure with the events that were taking place, claiming that those who were standing lacked consideration.

“I’m not here to say we don’t want a dog park, but you think that because 18 or 10 or 12 people in Acorn Ponds want a dog park that this village should spend the money to give you a dog park?” he said. “But you don’t care where it is, even if it’s on [Lowell H. Kane Park], which is a children’s park. You couldn’t care less because your dog is more important than the children of this village.”

Natiss continued by saying that he is “always arguing” with Ditata and Acorn Ponds.

“Vote me out in ‘23, because I’m fed up. There are 28 other communities that don’t give us a problem,” he said. “You and eight people want a dog park, so we have to go build a dog park for you? What about the other 5,405 residents?”

The dialogue eventually returned to a more diplomatic tone, with Natiss stating that the board would explore their options. He also proposed collaborating with the County to resolve issues at Morley Park.

“I think the mayor can explore that and find out from Nassau County and the parks department — they know what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable,” said Deputy Mayor Dennis Sgambati. “To be perfectly candid, I don’t think that anyone here knows what’s accepted now.”

The next Board of Trustees meeting for the Village of North Hills is scheduled for Wednesday, June 15 at 7:30 p.m. in Village Hall.

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