The Examiner

Donor Withdraws Support for Armonk Dog Park; Project in Jeopardy

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274 North Castle Budget Hearing picThe proposed Armonk dog park is in jeopardy of being scuttled after it was learned last week that the anonymous donor that had been lined up to pay for the project has abruptly withdrawn support.

The latest turn of events connected to the controversial issue came to light at the April 24 North Castle Town Board meeting where developer and local resident Michael Fareri unloaded a harsh critique of the board majority for its handling of the matter.

Neighbors and other residents mobilized in recent weeks to oppose the dog park considered for Maple Avenue and Bedford Road in downtown Armonk, which included the launch of an online petition against the park a few weeks ago.

Fareri, who said he knows the would-be donor well, read a letter from the resident who was prepared to donate an unspecified amount of money. However, following increasingly strident public dialogue the donor didn’t want “to be attached to something so bitter and controversial,” according to the letter written to the town board.

“What has happened in the past weeks has turned very ugly and hurtful,” the donor wrote.

At last week’s board meeting, Fareri wasted little time in blaming dog park supporters Supervisor Howard Arden and council members Diane DiDonato-Roth and John Cronin for failing to reach out to residents, which triggered much of the animosity.

“I think the reason for that is because the town board, some members, have really just shoved it down everybody’s throat without taking the proper time and consideration to look at other places,” said Fareri, who called Bedford Road and Maple Avenue a “poor location” for the facility.

DiDonato-Roth responded that opposition to the park, much of it politically motivated, cost the town a potential donation of between $50,000 and $100,000. She said the donor wasn’t only going to put up fencing but was going to add benches, dog park equipment, pull out tree stumps and landscape the property.

“She really didn’t want to be part of this negativity that was happening,” DiDonato-Roth said. “So it’s rather unfortunate that the negative things that happen have an after-effect.”

Fareri countered that DiDonato-Roth exaggerated the amount that was to be given by the donor. He said there would have been likely an initial donation of about $10,000 with the promise of additional funds in the future. DiDonato-Roth disputed Fareri’s account.

He also said the town should have made sure residents wanted the park. A survey a few years ago conducted by the town regarding recreational facilities revealed that a dog park was not a high priority.

Arden said because money is not in the current year’s budget, the park is in jeopardy of being derailed. He acknowledged the day after the meeting that his office should have reached out to Wampus Close residents, the neighbors closest to the site.

However, he, Cronin and DiDonato-Roth also criticized those who sought to gain political points.

“It’s just unfortunate that something that’s really good for the town that had a benefactor gets shot down,” he said.

Wampus Close resident Susan Cavaliere said the three-acre property should be transformed into more passive recreation, not a dog park.

“This area should have been part of the existing park with benches, reflection globes and plantings,” Cavliere said. “Why turn it into a dumping ground? Why not preserve this as green space?”

“The people closest to this thing should have been asked,” added Susan Berenson, another Wampus Close resident.

The board majority announced late last year that they would explore the site after dozens of trees were toppled during Hurricane Sandy. North Castle is receiving federal money for clearing the park of the trees and debris. The property was previously identified by the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board as a potential site for a dog park.

Fareri said the episode highlighted how Arden, Cronin and DiDonato-Roth were failing to include councilmen Michael Schiliro and Stephen D’Angelo in decision making.

“What I’m finding and feeling is our town isn’t being run by five people,” he said. “We have a town board that’s being run by three people.”

DiDonato-Roth said the next day that she wasn’t surprised by Fareri’s comments, even though he finds himself on the same side as people he was bitterly opposed to on other issues.

“The only person Mike Fareri has been a supporter of is himself and his checkbook,” she said.





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