We Love Ward Acres!!

During vs City of New Rochelle

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During vs City of New Rochelle
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How Can We ALL Share Ward Acres?
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The People Speak
Vandalism and Park Abuse
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Will Fees Obstruct Colonial Greenway?
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So, what are the new rules?

The 59 acres outside the fenced-in dog run are free - no fees, no special licensing, but dogs must be leashed.

Only users of the 3 acre dog run, where dogs may run unleashed, must purchase the permit at $50 per resident household or $100 per non-resident household (limit of 4 dogs) per year.

Read the Journal News editorial (12/26/08) "common sense" prevails at Ward Acres. Click HERE

PRESS RELEASE


Westchester Dog Owners and City Settle Ward Acres Case


Settlement Grants Primary Objective of Lawsuit – Elimination of Special License and Fees to Walk Dogs in Public Park – Park Remains Free


Contact: Patricia B. Wild, Attorney for Plaintiffs (914) 834-3969 or Jeffrey P. Wiegand, Press Contact (914) 374-8320 


NEW ROCHELLE, New York, December 23, 2008:  

Plaintiff dog owners and the city of New Rochelle have settled the lawsuit arising from the Ward Acres ordinance enacted by the city on January 16, 2007 (effective April 1st and amended on December 11, 2007).  In the settlement, the city agreed to amend the ordinance to eliminate the fees and special licensing required to walk a dog in Ward Acres' open parkland and to calculate the fee charged to use the 3 acre fenced-in dog run on a household rather than per dog basis. The ordinance remains otherwise unchanged. 


Accordingly, New Rochelle City Council amended the ordinance at its Regular Legislative Meeting on December 9, 2008 and a Stipulation of Settlement and Dismissal was signed by Judge Donovan on December 12, 2008.  


Dog owners welcome this agreement as an affirmation of New York's long-standing tradition which assures free access to municipal parks and hope this settlement will inaugurate a new era of cooperation with city officials to enhance everyone's use and enjoyment of Ward Acres. 


Learn more about Ward Acres and the Westchester dog-owning community.  Go to: www.WeLoveWardAcres.net.

For more community discussion, join:

groups.yahoo.com/group/FriendsofWardAcresPark/

 

 


WARD ACRES LITIGATION TIMELINE:


CASE FILED

The case was originally filed on April 16, 2007, Dennis C. During,  Michael S. Friscia and Marci Malone vs The City of New Rochelle, New York in New York State Supreme Court, Westchester Co., Hon. W. D. Donovan (Index No. 6561/07).


THE CLAIMS

The Ward Acres ordinance (City Code § 224-9 Animals, as amended) was unprecedented. It imposed a photo ID and a per dog fee of $50 (residents) and $250 (non-residents) on anyone who entered Ward Acres’ state and county-funded open and natural parkland with a dog. 


Plaintiffs claimed the ordinance discriminated against dog owners and non-residents, imposed an illegal dog tax and an impermissible public park admission fee, and usurped the uniformity of New York state dog licensing. 


Plaintiffs further challenged the city’s use of police who randomly stopped law-abiding dog owners walking in the park to demand production of their special Ward Acres photo IDs. 


CASE DISMISSED, DOG OWNERS APPEAL

On July 23, 2007, Hon. W. Denis Donovan, with no notice to plaintiffs and very little explanation, denied plaintiffs' discovery enforcement motions and dismissed the complaint on the ground that it failed to state a cause of action.  The order of dismissal was entered on September 10, 2007. 


October 4, 2007, plaintiffs filed their Notice of Appeal and Request for Appellate Division Intervention in the Second Judicial Department, Docket No. 2007-09271.


CITY AMENDS ORDINANCE

December 11, 2007, the city of New Rochelle amended the ordinance to reduce the non-resident fee to $100 per dog from $250 and to provide for the construction of an about 3 acre dog run in Ward Acres. 


DOG FEDERATION OF NEW YORK JOINS CASE

On February 15, 2008, a statewide association of dog owners, the Dog Federation of New York (contact Mahlon Goer 845-706-1116 www.dogfederationofnewyork.blogspot.com ), appeared in the case as “amicus curiae” (friend of the court) in support of plaintiffs’ appeal. 


Oral argument of the appeal took place in Brooklyn on September 15, 2008 when, among other things, the Presiding Judge Hon. William F. Mastro advised the city to try to settle the case.


PLAINTIFFS WIN APPEAL, CITY MUST PRODUCE DOCUMENTS

On October 7, 2008, the Appellate Division reversed Judge Donovan’s dismissal of plaintiffs' case and granted plaintiffs’ request for production of certain documents by the city, particularly those documents pertaining to calculation of the costs of administering the Ward Acres ordinance. The case was remitted to the Supreme Court with costs of the appeal awarded to plaintiffs.


SETTLEMENT

On December 12, 2008 the case was settled upon the city’s agreement to eliminate fees and special licensing to walk dogs in Ward Acres’ open parkland and to calculate the fee charged to use the 3 acre fenced-in dog run on a household rather than per dog basis.

Download a copy of the Press Release HERE

Download a copy of the Settlement and Order of Dismissal HERE

 

!! PLAINTIFFS WIN APPEAL !!
 

Appeals Court Reverses Trial Court’s Dismissal of Complaint against New Rochelle’s Ward Acres Ordinance and Allows Pre-Trial Discovery to Proceed

PRESS RELEASE 

Westchester Dog Owners Win Appeal


Appeals Court Reverses Trial Court’s Dismissal of Complaint against New Rochelle’s Ward Acres Ordinance and Allows Pre-Trial Discovery to Proceed


Contact: Patricia B. Wild, Attorney for Plaintiffs (914) 834-3969 or

Jeffrey P. Wiegand, Press Contact (914) 374-8320 


NEW ROCHELLE, New York, October 13, 2008:  


On October 7, 2008, the Appellate Division Second Judicial Department reversed Judge Donovan’s dismissal of plaintiff dog owners’ case against New Rochelle's Ward Acres ordinance (Local City Ordinance 21-2007) and granted plaintiffs’ request for production of certain documents by the city.  Oral argument of the appeal took place on September 15, 2008 when, among other things, the Presiding Judge advised the city to try to settle the case.


In its ruling, the court stated that in the absence of notice to the parties and a motion by the defendant, it was error for the trial court to dismiss the complaint.  The lower court further erred in denying plaintiffs’ request for documents from the city, particularly those requests pertaining to calculation of the costs of administering the Ward Acres ordinance.  The case is remitted to the Supreme Court, Westchester County for further proceedings on the complaint.  Statutory costs of the appeal ($250) were also awarded to the plaintiffs.  


The Ward Acres ordinance is unprecedented.  It imposes a photo ID and a per dog fee of $50 (residents) and $100 (non-residents – originally $250) on anyone who enters Ward Acres’ state and county-funded open and natural parkland with a dog.  


Plaintiffs and the Dog Federation of NY (who joined the case as amicus curiae “friend of the court” in support of plaintiffs’ appeal) claim the ordinance 


discriminates against dog owners and non-residents, 


imposes an illegal dog tax and an impermissible public park admission fee, and 


usurps the uniformity of state dog licensing.  


Plaintiffs and DFNY further challenge the city’s use of police who randomly stop law-abiding dog owners walking in the park to demand production of their special Ward Acres photo IDs. 


The case was originally filed on April 16, 2007, Dennis C. During, Michael S. Friscia and Marci Malone vs The City of New Rochelle, New York in New York State Supreme Court, Westchester Co., Hon. W.D. Donovan (Index No. 6561/07), dismissal appealed to the Appellate Division 2nd Department (Docket No. 2007-09271) on October 4, 2007.  On February 15, 2008, a statewide association of dog owners, the Dog Federation of New York (Contact:  Mahlon Goer 845-706-1116 www.dogfederationofnewyork.blogspot.com ), appeared in the case as amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) in support of plaintiffs’ appeal.  


Download a copy of the appeals court decision and learn more about Ward Acres, the Westchester dog-owning community and the real world impact of this unprecedented ordinance.  Go to:  www.WeLoveWardAcres.net.  


For more community discussion, join:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/FriendsofWardAcresPark/

http://groups.google.com/group/FriendsofWardAcresPark


END


Download a PDF of the Press release HERE

CLICK HERE for the Appellate Division's decision

CLICK HERE for the Appellate Division Second Department Home Page

_______________________________________________
 

Read about Mayor Noam Bramson's dog tax in the New York Times.


"The city now charges annual fees of $50 per dog for residents and $100 per dog for nonresidents to take dogs to Ward Acres."


Full article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/29/nyregion/nyregionspecial2/29dogswe.html




Whoever heard of charging $250 (per dog - or even $100) to walk with your LEASHED dog in open & natural public parkland?

That's what they are doing in New Rochelle, NY!

ILLEGAL DOG TAX
BURDENSOME LICENSING
DISCRIMINATION
POLICE STATE TACTICS OF ENFORCEMENT & INTIMIDATION
 
STATEWIDE DOG OWNERS ALARMED!

Westchester Dog Owners Welcome Dog Federation of New York in Suit Against New Rochelle

 

Statewide Dog Owners Join as "Amicus Curiae" in Appeal

 

Contact:           Patricia B. Wild, Attorney for Plaintiffs (914) 834-3969 or

                        Jeffrey P. Wiegand, Press Contact (914) 374-8320 

 

NEW ROCHELLE, New York, February 20, 2008:  

 

On February 15, 2008, the Dog Federation of New York, made its motion to appear as "amicus curiae" (“friend of the court”) in support of plaintiff dog owners' appeal of the dismissal of their case against New Rochelle's Ward Acres ordinance.  Plaintiffs welcome the support of the Dog Federation of New York who is represented by Paul Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP of New York City. 

 

Plaintiffs are confident that with the help of the Dog Federation, the appeals court will come to understand the injustice and socially detrimental effects of the ordinance along with the wider threat to statewide civil liberties that it represents. 

 

As stated in the "amicus curiae" brief, “...dog walking clearly benefits dog owners and society as a whole.  It should be promoted, facilitated, and celebrated – not penalized, bureaucratized, and stigmatized.”

 

The case was originally filed on April 16, 2007, Dennis C. During, Michael S. Friscia and Marci Malone vs The City of New Rochelle, New York in New York State Supreme Court, Westchester Co., Hon. W.D. Donovan (Index No. 6561/07), dismissal appealed to the Appellate Division 2nd Department (Docket No. 2007-09271) on October 4, 2007.

 

To learn more about Ward Acres, the Westchester dog-owning community and the real world impact of this unprecedented ordinance go to:  www.WeLoveWardAcres.net.  Copies of selected court filings for download are available at the site.  

 

Press contact for the Dog Federation of New York:  Mahlon Goer (845) 706-1116 and web site http://www.dogfederationofnewyork.org/

 

For more community discussion, join:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/FriendsofWardAcresPark/

http://groups.google.com/group/FriendsofWardAcresPark

 

END

 

 

DOG FEDERATION OF NEW YORK PRESS RELEASE:
 
New Rochelle Law Forcing Dog Owners From Park Challenged in Court
 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MEDIA CONTACT: Mahlon Goer 845-706-1116
 
Dog Federation Of New York supports challenge to unlawful, discriminatory public policies targeting law-abiding dog owners.

New York, NY – February 20, 2008 -The Dog Federation of New York (DFNY) made a motion to appear as amicus curiae (“friend-of-the-court”) on February 15, 2008 in the case of During et. al v. The City of New Rochelle, New York,. The papers delivered to the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division, Second Department, support a suit previously brought by dog owners Dennis C. During, Michael S. Friscia and Marci Malone against the City of New Rochelle and now under appeal. The dog owners seek nullification of New Rochelle’s illegal, unfair and punitive local ordinance requiring them to obtain extra photo identifications and permits, and pay special additional fees, simply to walk a dog in a public park.
 
Dog walkers with leashed dogs in Ward Acres Park in New Rochelle are subject to a disturbing stop-andsearch policy in which police officers are instructed to stop people walking their dogs and demand to see a special “Ward Acres Dog Permit” photo identification. Persons unable to produce the special permits are asked to leave the park and, under the terms of the Ordinance, they are potentially subject to fines and/or imprisonment.
 
"As a statewide coalition of law-abiding dog owners, we are deeply concerned when a municipality illegally targets residents and tax-payers whose only “crime” is walking a dog in a public place," stated DFNY spokesperson Mahlon Goer. “New Rochelle residents and non-residents alike are not second class citizens, and state law protects them from unwarranted searches, special permit requirements, extra dog taxes, and other infringements of their civil liberties.”
 
The law suit, brought by New Rochelle resident and non-residents and supported by the Dog Federation of New York, points out numerous violations of state law in the ordinance. New York State’s Constitution and laws protect all of its citizens from discrimination, including dog owners.
 
"Ward Acres was the last park in New Rochelle open to people who want to walk their dogs, and now the City Council seems bent on forcing them out of it. Close to half of all households in New York include at least one dog, and we are surprised and dismayed to see that a better accommodation could not be worked out,” Goer continued. “Our goal is to promote dog-friendly and dog-safe communities for all New Yorkers. We are confident that better solutions are available.”
 
Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP in New York City represents the Dog Federation of New York in this matter. The case was originally filed on April 16, 2007, Dennis C. During, Michael S. Friscia and Marci Malone v. The City of New Rochelle, New York in NY State Supreme Court, Westchester Co., Hon. W. D. Donovan, Index No. 6561/07.

About the Dog Federation of New York
The Dog Federation of New York is a statewide coalition of dog clubs, organizations and individuals that serves the public interest by educating citizens and legislators on responsible dog ownership and advocating for strong, and humane dog-related legislation. The Dog Federation of New York welcomes all dog owners and dog-related organizations in New York. Visit us on the web at http://www.dogfederationofnewyork.org/
 
####

BREAKING NEWS

Westchester Dog Owners File Brief in Appeal of Case Against the City of New Rochelle

Plaintiffs eager for appellate review

Contact: Patricia B. Wild, Attorney for Plaintiffs (914) 834-3969 or
Jeffrey P. Wiegand, Press Contact (914) 374-8320

NEW ROCHELLE, New York, January 28, 2008:

On January 24, 2008 plaintiffs Dennis C. During, Michael S. Friscia and Marci Malone filed their Brief for Plaintiffs-Appellants in the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division, Second Department (Docket No. 2007-09271), in their case against the city of New Rochelle and the Ward Acres ordinance.

Plaintiffs appeal Hon. W. Denis Donovan's order of dismissal of the case which was entered on September 10, 2007. The order followed a conference held by the court on July 23, 2007, which had been ostensibly scheduled to discuss the defendant city's failure to comply with plaintiffs' requests for pre-trial document production and depositions. With no notice to plaintiffs and very little explanation, the court denied plaintiffs' discovery enforcement motions and dismissed the complaint on the ground that it failed to state a cause of action.

Judge Donovan committed numerous reversible errors in handling both the procedures and merits of this case, plaintiffs contend. Erroneously immunizing the city from routine pre-trial discovery, the court misapplied the speech and debate clause of the New York state constitution. The court also failed to give any notice to plaintiffs that it was considering dismissal whether on the pleadings (failure to state a cause of action) or on the merits (summary judgment). The court's final judgment confused those two modes of dismissal and plainly erred when it relied solely on defendants' flawed affidavits which were flatly contradicted by affidavits submitted by the plaintiffs.

Plaintiff Michael Friscia expressed dismay at Judge Donovan, "The court's perfunctory treatment of our case appears not to have followed rules designed to assure plaintiffs' due process rights and I welcome this opportunity for review by the Appellate Division."

As to the merits of the case, plaintiffs' appeal brief sets forth the law behind the eight causes of action in the complaint. The heart of plaintiffs' appeal is that a municipality may not, under New York state law, impose a fee and a photo ID on anyone who wishes to walk with their dog in a municipal park. It's simple - people freely walk their dogs in public parks throughout New York state. If each town, village and city could issue its own dog license and impose a fee to walk a dog in a particular park, and if non-residents were required to possess the license or face fines or imprisonment, uniform statewide regulation of dogs would be undermined and the freedom of dog owners would be severely impaired.

Furthermore, if this ordinance is allowed to stand, what would prevent New Rochelle or other municipalities from similarly burdening other everyday activities such as picnicking, Frisbee playing, biking or kite flying in a public park?

The Ordinance was amended on December 11, 2007 by the "lame duck" New Rochelle City Council to reduce the non-resident fee to $100 per dog from $250 and eliminate all off-leash recreation outside a yet-to-be-built dog run. But the amendment perpetuates the violations that are the subject of this appeal by continuing to impose fees and licensing on dog walkers enjoying the park outside the proposed dog run.

Ironically, by amending the ordinance to eliminate the off-leash hours that were the supposed justification for the fees and licensing to begin with, the city now has no remaining rationale for the Ward Acres dog tax. Plaintiffs urge the city to do the right thing and only apply reasonable fees (and no licensing) to use of the dog run.

The city's new rule still requires a person to obtain a special license and pay a fee to walk a dog on a leash in a public park.

The city must file its answering brief with the Appellate Division within 35 days after January 24th. The case was originally filed on April 16, 2007. Dennis C. During, Michael S. Friscia and Marci Malone vs The City of New Rochelle, New York in NY State Supreme Court, Westchester Co., Hon. W.D. Donovan, Index No. 6561/07.

To learn more about Ward Acres, the Westchester dog-owning community and the real world impact of this unprecedented ordinance go to: www.WeLoveWardAcres.net. Copies of selected court filings for download are available at the site.

For more community discussion, join: http://groups..yahoo.com/group/FriendsofWardAcresPark/ http://groups.google.com/group/FriendsofWardAcresPark


END

    
Westchester Dog Owners File Appeal in Case Against the City of New Rochelle

Plaintiffs eager for appellate review

Contact: Patricia B. Wild, Attorney for Plaintiffs (914) 834-3969 or
Jeffrey P. Wiegand, Press Contact (914) 374-8320 

NEW ROCHELLE, New York, October 4, 2007:  

On October 4, 2007, plaintiffs Dennis C. During, Michael S. Friscia and Marci Malone filed their Notice of Appeal and Request for Appellate Division Intervention (Second Judicial Department) in their case against the city of New Rochelle and the Ward Acres ordinance. 

Plaintiffs are appealing Hon. W. Denis Donovan's order of dismissal of the case which was entered on September 10, 2007.  The order followed a conference held by the court on July 23, 2007, which had been ostensibly scheduled to discuss the defendant city's failure to comply with plaintiffs' requests for pre-trial document production and depositions.  With no notice to plaintiffs and very little explanation, the court denied plaintiffs' discovery enforcement motions and dismissed the complaint on the ground that it failed to state a cause of action.  

Plaintiffs are confident the appeals court judges will seriously reconsider this case.  The case and the appeal are not about off-leash dog walking.  Among other issues, the main points of the appeal are:

1) The illegality of charging an access fee to a public park in which there are no facilities such as a swimming pool or tennis court; 
2) The municipal usurpation of New York state's exclusive power to license dogs and the city's imposition of an illegal tax on dog owners;
3) Discrimination against non-residents by imposing an exorbitant fee to exclude them from a public park purchased with New York state conservation funds and improved with county funds;  and
4) The deliberate use by the city of police state tactics of enforcement and harassment of law-abiding citizens.

The city's Deputy Mayor (and councilman) wrote in a recent Journal News letter to the editor that plaintiffs' lawsuit was “preposterous.”  But plaintiffs believe it is preposterous that a municipality thinks it can legally charge its residents and non-residents a fee and require a photo ID to walk a dog on a leash in open and natural public parkland. 
“The court's dismissal of our claim was unfair;  the court glossed over important facts and neglected case law clearly pointing to the illegality of the ordinance,” according to plaintiffs Marci Malone and Michael Friscia.
Plaintiffs expect the appellate court will understand the danger of letting this ordinance stand – What's to keep New Rochelle from imposing another “dog tax” on use of another park?  What's to keep a municipality from imposing a license to picnic, throw a frisbee or fly a kite in any of its public parks or to impose another tax without a fair hearing?

Plaintiff Dennis During adds, “I am dismayed that since April 1st, I have been unable to enjoy the Ward Acres woodland with my dog and I continue to be outraged at my exclusion from a public park for which I have been paying taxes since 1968.”

The case was originally filed on April 16, 2007.  Dennis C. During, Michael S. Friscia and Marci Malone vs The City of New Rochelle, New York in NY State Supreme Court, Westchester Co., Hon. W.D. Donovan, Index No. 6561/07.

To learn more about Ward Acres, the Westchester dog-owning community and the real world impact of this unprecedented ordinance go to:  www.WeLoveWardAcres.net.  Copies of selected court filings for download are available at the site.  

For more community discussion, join:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/FriendsofWardAcresPark/
http://groups.google.com/group/FriendsofWardAcresPark

Ward Acres lawsuit is about licensing fees

(Original publication: August 3, 2007)

Lawsuit is about licensing fees

The July 27 article "Judge tosses lawsuit against Ward Acres dog rules; appeal expected" is misleading for focusing on off-leash regulations. The lawsuit has nothing to do with off-leash dogs and, indeed, the city could have chosen merely to enforce such regulations at virtually no cost and with no legal impediment.

Instead, the New Rochelle government chose to impose a cumbersome and expensive licensing requirement with fees prohibitive to occasional use of Ward Acres by residents ($50 per dog) and astronomical for non-residents ($250) whether the dog is on- or off-leash. This license flouts long-standing legislation and tradition ensuring that open parkland be free and accessible to the public. (In contrast, constructed facilities such as a supervised beach, a parking lot or our new skateboard complex are allowed to charge fees.)

The result of the Ward Acres regulation has been to empty a park that was once bustling with friends and families enjoying the outdoors and their pets. There is simply not enough activity or interest in the park by the general New Rochelle populace to justify the draconian measures designed to eliminate dogs. We dog owners plead for fairer access to our beloved park.

What is the real agenda here?

Kathryn D. Wiegand New Rochelle

Dogs & People Gone From Ward Acres

It has been over four months since the City of New Rochelle enacted a ban of unleashed dogs in Ward Acres after 10 am. Dog owners must now purchase dog walking permits to use the park with their dogs. For New Rochelle residents the fee is $50 per year; for non-residents, $250. The purpose of the new law was to allow people without dogs a time to use the park.

So I have been visiting Ward Acres after 10 am to see who exactly was using the park at those times. Before the April 1st ban, Ward Acres was alive with people all the time. Ward Acres was the most utilized park in lower Westchester. The nature trails were used by hundreds of people, people who happened to own a dog. Now there is no one walking in the park after 10 am. The trails that were once so alive with friendly people are silent. There is an eerie ghost-like atmosphere that permeates the air.

For nine years I visited Ward Acres several times a week. It was a magical and enchanting place. The people who used the park cared for it, keeping it clean, grooming the trails, picking up any debris; we were a community. We formed a bond between ourselves. We celebrated together, holiday dinners, luncheons, showers. We mourned together, funerals, illnesses, heartaches. Whenever we met outside the park we would always end our encounters with “see you at the park.” Ward Acres connected us.

Dogs in Park
Before: Only some of the dogs & owners in the park.

Since school ended it is easy to see how many people are actually using the park from the number of cars parked by Ward School. From dawn to 10am there are usually 8 to 12 cars parked outside. People are coming and going constantly. After 10am when I arrive there are usually no cars parked outside. As I walk inside, the park is so quiet that I feel frightened by the stillness and I leave quickly. I am told by one of the park’s constant users that someone with a dog attempted to use the park in the afternoon but was confronted, fined and made to leave by the New Rochelle police. Word of the encounter spreads fast and now no one goes there in the afternoon.

Ward Acres
After the New Law: Empty Park

It is unfortunate that Mayor Noam Bramson and the City of New Rochelle Council imposed these restrictions on the very people who used the park and contributed to its well being. What if a community had a soccer field that was used all day by youth soccer leagues and the local government declared that children could only play until 10 because adults wanted to use the field. Then the adults only used the field once a month and the rest of the time the field stood empty. That is exactly what is happening at Ward Acres. For the people who formerly used the park all the time it is heartbreaking to know it sits empty for most of the day, every day. It is tragic that this will be Mayor Bramson’s legacy.

Christine Webler
Larchmont, NY

August 9, 2007

THE PRESS (older links might roll into publisher's archive):

Click HERE to read Journal News August 22, 2007 "ghost town." (commenter wants parks to be museums...)

Click HERE to read New Rochelle Sound Report August 3, 2007. (see p. 1 bottom)

Click HERE to read NY Times article August 5, 2007.

Click HERE to read Journal News article July 27, 2007.

Click HERE to read Journal News article June 10, 2007.

Click HERE to view CBS 11pm Local News Ward Acres Report



PLAINTIFFS' COURT FILINGS:

DEFENDANT'S' COURT FILINGS:

Brief Opposing Preliminary Injunction

Affidavits Opposing Preliminary Injunction

Want to Support the Case Financially?

     Mary S. Clark, an attorney in New Rochelle, has opened an escrow fund for the benefit of Ward Acres.  The funds are being used to pay for expenses of the lawsuit such as printing, copying and binding documents, administrative services, court fees and support services – not for attorneys fees.  The attorneys working on the case are doing so on a volunteer basis.

 

Checks should be made payable to

 “Clark & Clark as attorneys f/b/o Ward Acres”

and sent to

Mary S. Clark, Esq.,

225 Broadview Avenue

New Rochelle, NY 10804.  

Thanks for your support!


 

ORIGINAL PRESS RELEASE

 

Westchester Dog Owners File Civil Complaint Against the City of New Rochelle

 

City Overreaches Its Municipal Powers

 

Contact: Patrica B. Wild, Attorney for Plaintiffs (914) 834-3969 or

Jeffrey P. Wiegand (914) 374-8320

 

NEW ROCHELLE, New York, April 17, 2007:  Two residents, Marci Malone and Michael S. Friscia, and one non-resident of New Rochelle,  Dennis C. During, have filed a complaint, request for declaratory relief and a permanent injunction in the Supreme Court of Westchester County against a new, unprecedented ordinance imposed on users of Ward Acres by the City Council of New Rochelle on January 16, 2007 and effective April 1st of this year.

 

The complaint alleges that the ordinance is a “novel new dog license ordinance – the first of its kind in New York State”.  The ordinance requires persons who wish to walk their dogs in Ward Acres (a 62 acre open and natural parkland purchased with voter-approved NewYork State conservation funds in 1962) to pay an annual licensing fee of $50 per dog for residents and an exorbitant $250 per dog for non-residents.  In addition, dog owners must submit to a photo ID and carry the license and proof of rabies inoculation on their persons at all times when in the park with their dog.  Furthermore, any person accompanied by a dog in Ward Acres is, at any time, subject to stop and questioning by armed police and liable for fines and possible imprisonment. 

 

This illegal ordinance and its mode of enforcement raise serious issues of civil liberties and fundamental fairness which should concern all residents of Westchester County and New York State, not just dog owners.  The illegal ordinance, which defies the plain language of several state statutes, has inexplicably burdened a long-standing peaceful use of state conservation lands, severely disrupted the lives of hundreds of neighbors and families and has arbitrarily stigmatized dog-owing households in the county. 

 

This case is not about routine political disagreements over New Rochelle's leash law or policies regarding off-leash hours in Ward Acres.  Rather plaintiffs seek to preserve the decades-long free and peaceful use of an open and natural parkland expressly created by the will of New York's voters.  

 

Among other claims, the plaintiffs allege the following:

 

● The City exceeded its authority under the New York State Agriculture and Markets Law which explicitly limits the power of municipalities to issue dog licenses.  The illegal ordinance charges more than the statutorily permissible fees and adds additional burdens not allowed under the statute.

 

● The ordinance illegally violates the NY State General Municipal law and common law which guarantee that public parks are to be free.

 

● The ordinance's exorbitant $250 fee illegally discriminates against non-residents under the New York Conservation Law, the General Municipal Law and the New York State Constitution which guarantees its citizens equal protection under the law.  

 

● And the ordinance illegally subjects law-abiding citizens to unreasonable stops and questioning by armed police which violate a citizen's right to be left alone under the New York State Constitution. 

 

If this ordinance is allowed to stand, plaintiffs fear it will serve as a precedent for other Westchester communities to follow should they wish to restrict access to conservation lands, vilify some segment of its law-abiding public or proscribe an ordinary activity of its citizenry. 

 

Plaintiff and Mt. Vernon resident Dennis C. During explains, “I am disappointed that a municipality can ignore state law, our constitutionally protected civil liberties, and the will of the voters, legislators, and governor of New York State to destroy a peaceful use of natural parkland.  I voted for the Open Space bond issue long ago and have been among the millions of New York State taxpayers who have paid taxes for this parkland to be preserved.”

 

Plaintiff and New Rochelle resident Marci Malone adds that Ward Acres was one of the reasons her family chose to locate in New Rochelle five years ago.  She wonders, “I just do not understand why the City can force dog-owning families to pay for use of a natural parkland that non-dog owning families may enjoy for free.”  

 

Plaintiffs have respectfully asked the Court to declare the ordinance illegal and invalid, permanently enjoin its enforcement and grant such other and further relief as the Court may deem just and proper.

 

To learn more about Ward Acres, the Westchester dog-owning community and the real world impact of this unprecedented ordinance go to:  http://www.WeLoveWardAcres.Net.  A copy of the complaint for download has been made available at the site.  

 

For more community discussion, join:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/FriendsofWardAcresPark/

http://groups.google.com/group/FriendsofWardAcresPark

 

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We Love Ward Acres  *  New Rochelle  *  New York