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Murray Playground Dog Run Closed for Soil Contamination

The dog run at Murray Playground has been closed since the afternoon of Feb. 14 after the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation discovered high levels of contaminants in the soil, including lead and arsenic. In a statement to the Queens Ledger, a spokesperson for NYC Parks said other areas of the park are also being closed until the department is confident they are uncontaminated.

“The safety of our park patrons is always our top priority, and we moved quickly to close the dog run at Murray Playground as soon as we found signs of potential soil contamination,” the statement said. “Out of an abundance of caution, we have also fenced off open grass areas at the park while we conduct further testing.”

According to the spokesperson, paved and covered parts of the park — including the playground — do not pose a risk of contamination.

“As the playground space is covered with pavement and a play surface, there is no pathway for exposure, and this portion of the park remains open,” the statement said. “The duration of the dog run closure is yet to be determined.”

Council Member Julie Won said she is working with the Parks Department to keep constituents updated on the soil testing process and a timeline for the park’s reopening to the public.

“On February 21, I sent a letter to NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue requesting that Parks provide an updated timeline for soil retesting and that all areas where children have contact with contaminated soil be fenced off,” Won said in a public statement. “As a mother, the safety of your children is my top priority. We will continue to provide information on a timeline for soil retesting once we receive a response from Parks.”


Lost dog reunited with her owners

It was a Forest Hills miracle 15 hours in the making.
On Wednesday evening, Sherry, a 14-year-old dog, was rescued after she went missing a night earlier. On Thursday afternoon, she was reunited with her owners, a young couple named Robert Norbeck and Jessica Almonacid.
Michael Conigliaro, Fred Darowitsch, and this columnist were driving through the neighborhood when Conigliaro observed a dog running by his car.
He ran after the dog for five blocks along Jewel Avenue, stopping oncoming traffic. Two passersby helped escort her to the sidewalk on 113th Street.
Meir Malakov brought the dog some turkey breast and water, which was speedily consumed. The group began reaching out via social media, including posting videos made by Michael Vostok, looking for the dog’s owner.
Heddy Schmidt met the group in front of the 112th Precinct, and brought along her friend Josh, who takes care of dogs.
“When I asked if he could hold her overnight if needed, he did not hesitate,” Schmidt said.
The posts in Facebook groups went viral, and her owners were eventually found. Fourteen years ago, Sherry was adopted from North Shore Animal League America in Long Island.
“Sherry has always been very calm, docile, and friendly,” said Norbeck. “Some of our best memories with her occur on holidays like Christmas, Halloween, and birthday parties.”
Norbeck explained how Sherry escaped.
“Last Tuesday, Jessica was taking out the garbage and it was very dark,” he said. “Sherry walked out of the driveway. We walked around Forest Hills, asking people for hours.
“I feel very grateful and happy to see that there are still good people around who care about animals,” he said of her rescuers.
According to the ASPCA, the chances of finding a lost pet after 24 hours drops below 50 percent, and even lower after two days.
“I felt like my favorite football team won the Super Bowl when my wife and her friend found the owner,” said Vostek. “Tough times unfortunately bring us closer, but in those times, we can actually see how beautiful we really are.”
Schmidt has been involved in several rescues of dogs and cats.
“The more people that help spread the word, the more people that offer to help, the better the outcome for the animal in need,” she said.
Schmidt explained how she felt after finding Sherry’s owners.
“It was a beautiful series of coincidences, good hearted people, and social media that helped this sweet girl,” she said. “We all were very lucky in this rescue, but it also brings home the importance of microchipping your animal in the event something like this happens.”

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