The Tension Between Birdwatchers and Dogwalkers Was Simmering Even Before the #AmyCooper Incident

The Ramble. Photo by gigi_nyc.

By Michael McDowell

On May 25, a video taken by Chris Cooper went viral. Chris Cooper, who is Black, was out birding in the Ramble, in Central Park. Amy Cooper, who is White, was walking her dog, off-leash, an activity which is not permitted in the Ramble.

After Chris asked Amy to leash her dog, Amy threatened to call the police, and then did so, repeatedly telling them a Black man was threatening her. Amy Cooper has since lost her job, and briefly, also her dog.

The most important takeaway from the conflict was that calling police on a Black man on trumped-up grounds has dangerous — sometimes deadly — consequences. But a subplot of that interaction also resonated with Upper West Siders: birdwatchers and dog owners have been in a passive-aggressive turf war for years, a battle which has escalated as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

“This event was really quite disturbing on many levels, and having had run-ins myself with dog walkers breaking the law in Central Park, I’m firmly in Chris’s corner concerning the incident,” said Ken Chaya, a well-known New York City birder and urban naturalist.

“It was only a matter of time before the situation between birders and dog walkers turned ugly, and now it has,” he added.

While Central Park is greenspace for all New Yorkers to relish, it is a particularly important destination for migratory birds.

“Central Park sits right on the Atlantic Flyway, one of the busiest migration routes in North America. Millions of birds stream through our neighborhood twice every year,” Chaya explained.

“These tiny birds, they’re hungry, they’re tired, the sun is coming up”—most birds migrate at night—“and they look down and what do they see? A huge grey metropolis. What are they going to do? They need food, they need rest, and they see this little green strip. I call Central Park the landing strip, and that’s where the birds go,” he said.

During migration, Central Park is like nowhere else in the world. There’s even a movie, “The Central Park Effect.” It features Chris Cooper.

“I can see about 280 species in Central Park each year,” Chaya continued. “When I tell birders from Florida I get 30 species of warbler in one city park, they can’t believe it. Name a city park where you see 30 species of warblers?” he asked. “You can’t do it!”

A woodland, the Ramble is particularly attractive to birds and the birders who follow them. Dogs are permitted, but must always be leashed, as they disrupt wildlife—especially birds—and thus, birders.

“We’re not telling dog owners they can’t walk their dogs in the Park, we’re just asking them to keep their dogs on the leash in the woodlands,” he said.

Exchanges between birders and scofflaws walking their dogs sans leash in the Ramble (and elsewhere) are predictably unproductive.

“Whenever one New Yorker tells another New Yorker what they should be doing, you’re really setting yourself up for an uncomfortable situation or an exercise in futility,” Chaya said.

Tensions have escalated during the coronavirus pandemic, which has resulted in the closure of dog runs citywide, meaning neighbors who typically meet human friends and dog friends at dog runs are navigating unfamiliar terrain. Often, that’s Central Park, where off-leash walks are permitted before 9 a.m, and after 9 p.m. Similar guidelines apply in Riverside Park.

“The incident itself, before it turned racial, was something that was very typical on the Upper West Side,” said Amanda Gagnon, founder and head trainer at Amanda Gagnon Dog Training, on 85th Street and Columbus Avenue.

“People see their dogs as an extension of themselves. When you’re being criticized for something that you and your dog are doing, you take it personally, and your tendency is to get very offended,” Gagnon said. “Dog owners are very passionate, dog walkers are very passionate, and people who use the park for other things are very passionate, and so we bicker.”

Gagnon supports off-leash walks, in designated spaces.

“Dogs who have the opportunity to be off-leash and afforded certain freedoms on a regular basis tend to be better behaved and less frustrated. People sometimes forget that dogs aren’t inanimate objects, they are sentient beings. They need to be able to have freedom. Freedom comes with risk, and freedom comes with responsibility.”

Humans and dogs aren’t so different, after all.

“What we know about learning theory is that punitive aversive punishment isn’t very effective, except in creating anxiety and more aggressive behaviors,” Gagnon said. “We try to stay away from using aversive techniques. Instead, we use a reward system, but it has to be something that the animal considers rewarding. That’s easy when it comes to dogs, but it gets really complicated when it comes to people. If we could find a way to give people the things they want, for kind and caring behavior, we might have world peace.”

Dog-derived insights have led Elaine Boxer, of the Bull Moose Dog Run Community Association (BMDRCA), toward community activism.

“When this is all over I have to decide whether to give my energy to racial equality or fixing capital projects in New York City,” Boxer told the Rag.

The dog run group resuscitated the renovation of Bull Moose, located in Theodore Roosevelt Park adjacent the Museum of Natural History, which had been delayed for nearly a decade. Although work is on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, Boxer told the Rag she believes the renovation of the dog run will be completed in July.

“Shepherding the dog run project gave me practice and perspective in how to engage productively with government as a citizen, and when all of this news started to hit [about George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests], I actually thought, this isn’t some abstraction,” she said.

“Policing is local, and as we’re watching all of this national news, the best thing that each of us can do is communicate locally, and what I don’t want to see is cops kneeling on people’s necks. What I want to see is a comprehensive plan to ensure that this doesn’t happen here.”

“The 20th Precinct is my local channel. My experience communicating with government on the dog run taught me that if you look for those channels, they are there. They may not be perfect, but if you don’t use those channels, you can kind of be faulted for not being part of the solution.”

As the coronavirus ebbs—for now—and restrictions are lifted, warm weather will draw more and more visitors to Central Park. What of the Ramble?

“This is our ecosystem, we’re part of it. Our parks, our greenspaces, our water, these are vitally important, and we have to learn how to share those things better,” said Ken Chaya.

“I have asked dog walkers to put their dog on a leash, and they’ve responded appropriately, and I salute them.”

CLARIFICATION: Although 280 bird species have been recorded in Central Park, David Barrett, of Manhattan Bird Alert, told the Rag that it would be highly unlikely–if not impossible–to glimpse such a number of species in Central Park. Many competitive birders record their current species counts on eBird, where more accurate totals (the range varies) may be found.
NEWS, OUTDOORS | 117 comments | permalink
    1. C says:

      Dogs have the right to exercise and freedom of course. So do humans. Humans don’t usually jump on and/or approach other humans. I did say usually.

      Some humans don’t want to be touched, licked, sniffed or jumped on by loose dogs. Some humans are very terrified of loose dogs. Especially the very big ones. I know they are all sweet and well behaved. But. Even if that were true, it’s not the point. They aren’t predictable.

      Humans have rights in the Park, too.

      • Honest Abe says:

        I pay taxes. The dogs do not.

        • Dogs On Leash Lover says:

          What do taxes have to do with common courtesy and respecting a human’s right not to have dogs jumping on them? Silly response. Let’s focus on the subject. Dogs off-leash infringe on the rights of people who want to walk in the Park unmolested by other people’s dogs.

    2. Lizzie says:

      Each dog owner thinks it’s okay for their dog to be off-leash/pee in tree pits or garden areas/dump in shrubbery/chase birds and squirrels.

      But multiply this by thousands of dogs multiple times a day and real damage is done. I love my dog-owner friends, but when they tell me that Max really needs to pee on grassy areas or deserves to do a little digging in the park, I get angry.

      You choose to have a dog in a city — he’ll have to deal with concrete and asphalt, and your decision to pollute and damage our precious and limited green areas is selfish and destructive.

      I’ve seen dog owners let their pets urinate giant puddles onto the lovely Fireman’s Memorial plaza: it’s a monument to fallen firefighters for heaven’s sake!

      You don’t let your dog pee in your apartment. Or the elevator. Or the lobby. Why is it okay for her to pee in the middle of the sidewalk, sending a stream of urine running over the pavement, so people who use walkers and strollers have to navigate over it?

      Yes, most dog owners at least pick up feces. But many are oblivious to the impact their animals have on the environment. Or they just don’t care.

      • Ish Kabibble says:

        Good post. I’m a dog owner and mostly obey the rules – documented and otherwise. It really bothers me to witness other dog owners that have no regard for our neighborhood, or they are paid walkers that couldn’t care less. It takes so little effort to train your dog to do their business in the gutter. Not on buildings, or their gardens. Not in the middle of the sidewalk as you point out. Not in flower beds. Although, my dog insists on pooping in them, however I’ve taught him not to kick the flowers all over the place. It can be done. All it takes is some common sense, consideration, and a little self respect.

      • Paul says:

        Totally. When you see an owner let his/her dog pee in the middle of a sidewalk, in front of an oncoming mother with a stroller, or person in a wheelchair or using a walker… really?

        And it happens often.

        Oh, and the dogs off leash in the park thing?
        How about we bring a few more coyotes in? That’ll solve it.

    3. Lashawn Martin says:

      Chris Cooper’s post:

      Central Park this morning: This woman’s dog is tearing through the plantings in the Ramble.

      ME: Ma’am, dogs in the Ramble have to be on the leash at all times. The sign is right there.
      HER: The dog runs are closed. He needs his exercise.
      ME: All you have to do is take him to the other side of the drive, outside the Ramble, and you can let him run off leash all you want.
      HER: It’s too dangerous.
      ME: Look, if you’re going to do what you want, I’m going to do what I want, but you’re not going to like it.
      HER: What’s that?
      ME (to the dog): Come here, puppy!
      HER: He won’t come to you.
      ME: We’ll see about that…

      I pull out the dog treats I carry for just for such intransigence. I didn’t even get a chance to toss any treats to the pooch before Karen scrambled to grab the dog.


      Amy Copper was threatened. Can somebody explain to me how she’s a racist by giving an accurate description?

      • Honest Abe says:

        Nice try, Karen.

        • Stacy says:

          How mysoginistic of you. Calling a woman a Karen is just another way of saying, shut up, woman.
          If anything, the bird watcher was being a ‘Karen’.

        • Kristin Cunnnar says:

          Stop using the urban slang term Karen. It is associated with the renaming of people that dates back to slave owners renaming their slaves, and Jewish people at concentration camps being given numbers and also new names, as a way to stripe them of their former identity. I question the mentality of those who use the urban slang Karen.

          • John E. says:

            Exactly! I take offense when a “John” is arrested in a prostitution sting operation! How dare they!

      • al says:

        Amy Cooper lost her S&** in an uncontrollable rant that pulled the race card, but Chris Cooper was no angel. He was manipulative and threatening. Given his foreboding “I’m going to do what I want, but you’re not going to like it,” how could she safely assume that he wasn’t trying to entice her dog with tainted treats?

      • A says:

        @ Lashawn , , , I’ve talked to several other people from the neighborhood – guys I grew up with here in the UWS for over 50 years (mainly latinos and black). And we all agree that his saying, “Look, if you’re going to do what you want, I’m going to do what I want, but you’re not going to like it” is a threat in our world of growing up. Hearing such a statement from anyone would lead one to believe that someone is “going down” (street slang).

        Where Amy messed up was that Chris and his sister controlled the narrative from the beginning. I’m personally not a fan of videos because unless you capture the entire confrontation from beginning to end, you’ll only get the view that is being from the person making the presentation.

        Bottom line, I am in agreement with your chain of thought.

        • Scott Weiner says:

          Yes, Chris was in a good position, because he could swing both ways. When he wanted to act tough, he could pull out his ghetto bravado and be intimidating.

          But then when he’s called on it, he goes all “I went to Harvard; I’m on the board of the Audubon Society.” And of course the liberals swoon and fall for the act completely.

          • JL says:

            Wow Scott, that’s a clear winner! Yours is most racist comment on here so far. Not an easy accomplishment. Just oozing with distain.

            I do appreciate the WSR moderating these discussions and not everything gets through (like the zoo @Gothamist). It would be great if some guidelines were posted (if not already). Sometimes nonsensical things get through but replies to them are censored. I guess maybe different reports have different thresholds for where the line is drawn.

            I do appreciate getting a glimpse at some of my neighbors.

            • Jen says:

              It is heavily censored as it is. And not in a good way. Only mainstream views are allowed with a couple of non- mainstream to show that they are fair journalists. They are not. Not anymore at least.

      • not today says:

        Your reaction is more proof that the UWS is seething with racism. Her (or her dog’s) life and physical being was not being threatened. Do you honestly think that if this was an encounter with a white person she would’ve called the police and carry on like she did? I guarantee that she wouldn’t have. She probably would’ve apologized and leashed her dog. Come on.

    4. Aaron G says:

      There is absolutely no reason to restrict dogs to leashes in the ramble during off leash hours. Birders can and should learn to share that part of the park like other taxpayers. Birds can function in trees with fauna on the ground just like they do in any other natural habitat in the world. There is absolutely nothing like the ramble and everyone should be able to have that experience. I personally refuse to oblige by the unfair and anti-dog rules of the ramble and encourage all other dog owners to do the same. We are a much larger population in this city than the birders and it’s time to take back our park for the free and enjoyable recreational use of beloved dogs.

      • Honest Abe says:

        Might makes right, eh?

        • JL says:

          @abe, don’t leave out – White makes right –
          just in case anyone is still confused about what all the fuss is about.

          You know, why the country is having a meltdown at the worst possible time, and the worst “human” in the WH in my lifetime. He does compare himself favorably to you Abe. Probably would’ve twitted at you- “overrated president because you got shot”.

      • Matt H says:

        Nah. Different birds rest or nest different places, it’s not simply okay for dogs to do whatever they want wherever they want. Just stick to the 90+% of the park where the dog can be off leash early or late, thanks.

        Not a dog owner or a birder myself, just a neutral observer.

      • Susan E Schuur says:

        Unbelievable. There are ample hours and places for dogs to be off leash. They don’t need the whole Park, especially the wild area like the Ramble.

      • Mr K says:

        That is absurd and ignorant. Thats what makes it a section for birds and bird wathchers without dogs abounding

      • Diana says:

        Amen 🙏

      • David S says:

        Umm…there’s a rule that says that unleashed dogs are not allowed in the Ramble. In a civilized society, we don’t get to just ignore rules we don’t like. (Didn’t your mother teach you that as a child?)

        Have you been doing anything to change the rule if you think it’s unfair? If the answer is “nothing”, I don’t see where you have any moral authority to complain.

      • j says:

        well this is selfish. We walk our dogs in The Ramble precisely because dogs are not allowed off leash. We avoid the other areas of the park before 9am because of other dogs running loose, often times attacking my dog, jumping on me. It incenses me to see dogs off leash in The Ramble, for this reason, as well as it is intended to be a sanctuary for birds and other wildlife, and for the people who respect that indended use of space.

      • Josh says:

        Aaron, right. Because you know more than the Wildlife Biologist who works for the Parks Department and made that rule.

    5. afs10024 says:

      I am a dog parent. While I am a mere bird observer (i.e., I don’t don binoculars), I do appreciate the many types of birds who touch down in Central Park for a time on their way South. What I don’t appreciate is the sanctimonious turfy birder who chastises me when he sees my small unleashed dog who walks by my side and has no interest in chasing wildlife–allegedly, the reason the outright ban on off-leash dogs in the Ramble exists– particularly when there are arguably more meaningful Park laws on the books that routinely go unremarked upon and unenforced, including the Park closure at 1 am, public urination, and the cyclists who routinely cruise along the Park’s walking paths, including those of the Ramble.

      • West76th says:

        Christian Cooper confronted my neighbor in April (with those damned treats) and guess what? Cooper had no mask on. Speaking of rules being broken in the park. My neighbor was enraged and desperate to get his precious pup away Cooper, but was also afraid to get within 6 feet of his unmasked face. And when he did get his dog, Cooper said, so smug, “See? That wasn’t so hard, was it?” Forget the cops, my neighbor said he had half a mind to punch Cooper in his smug, unmasked face right there.

        • your_neighbor says:

          You aren’t required to wear a mask when you are in the park.

        • Matt H says:

          I think you misunderstand Cuomo’s mask order. They’re not required outdoors if able to maintain social distance.

          • Jenny says:

            I think the point is, that the person could not stay 6 ft away from Chris if they wanted to get their dog. If he is luring dogs to him with treats in order to get the owner to put them on a leash, he should also carry a mask on him to put on if he expects people to retrieve their unleashed dogs when he uses this tactic.

      • Matt H says:

        I have never seen a bike in the Ramble. Literally never, not once. What rider in their right mind would go there? Great place to take a tumble down an unexpected flight of stairs.

        • m.pipik says:

          There are bikes all the time in the Ramble and people are riding them not just walking with them. It’s especially awful in summer months with the tourists who don’t seem to pay attention to the signs about not riding bikes on pathways.

        • Anon NY says:

          You’ve never seen a bike in the ramble? You must not be in there often. I see them all the time and a moped the other day. Rules are broken continuously in the park, bikers, smokers … it’s human crazy nature. And Cooper is absolutely no angel, did the same thing to friends early May, no mask, aggressive, threatening, yet this time in Strawberry Fields. That incident was more NYC birder vs dog owner.

        • TomF says:

          I give walking tours of Central Park (or did, before being sidelined by the pandemic). I’ve seen plenty of bikes in the Ramble, often tourists riding rentals. Both tourists and locals ignore the restrictions against riding on pedestrian paths throughout the park. I also see off-road riding, which is murder on the landscape, particularly in area north of the reservoir where the terrain is more rugged.

        • Rufus says:

          Never a bike in the ramble?!? Of the 20+ times this spring I visited the Ramble for birdwatching, i’d say at least 50% of the time i saw people riding a bike in the ramble.

          and every time, EVERY TIME, i saw at least one dog off a leash, often going after birds or swimming in Azalea pond or other areas – most of which have large signs saying No Dogs in Water with a clear symbol…

          • Matt H says:

            Huh, TIL. Still surprising to me that anyone would want to take a bike there.

            It must be the time of day I tend to be there (weekday mornings before 9. Well, back in pre-pandemic times.)

      • UWS Mom says:

        Dogs are not children. However, I do see many people treating their dogs better than their children.

        • UWS reader says:

          This whole line of argument seems to be: if other people are disobeying rules and trashing the park, why can’t I? But regarding the bikes in the ramble specifically, I am happy to concede the point that off-leash dogwalkers in the ramble are just as inconsiderate as tourists on bikes in the ramble.

      • UWSer says:

        You mean you are a dog owner? So odd when a dog owner refers to her/himself as a dog parent. Shows how wackadoodle their perspective is.

        You may think your dog is harmless walking unleashed next to you, but frankly most dog owners seem to think their dogs are angelic and harmless. How is a stranger supposed to know if you dog is truly harmless or will go running after birds and squirrels and wreak havoc on nature? The rule is clear and doesn’t let biased dog owners decide if their dog is harmless or not.

      • Mari says:

        AFS – Two (or more) wrongs don’t make a right. Keep your dog leashed wherever the rules require it.

      • Dark says:

        The bird watcher resorts to a legal tactic to confront a societal bully by offering treats to the dog, while the dog “parent” relies on violence and intimidation and other sanctimonious horses*** to justify their sense of superiority. Typical.

    6. Daniel A says:

      Superb reporting on a long-simmering but obscure topic. We hear the voice and priorities of the dogs, the people and the birds equally and without bias. Great to see the environmental justice issue addressed as well.

      For the record, there are several areas where dogs are never allowed off leash. This is from the Central Park Conservancy.

      Even during off-leash hours, dogs must always be leashed in the following locations:
      • Arthur Ross Pinetum
      • Bridle Path
      • Cedar Hill
      • Children’s Glade (Great Hill area)
      • Conservatory Garden
      • East Green
      • East Meadow Oval
      • Kerbs Boathouse Plaza
      • The North Woods
      • The Ramble
      • Shakespeare Garden
      • Strawberry Fields
      • Turtle Pond Lawn
      • Other areas where signs requiring dogs to be leashed are posted

      • CJ says:

        If only the rules were abided by in these areas. Heaven!

        Hope dog walkers/owners will continue to be polite as you say. Thank you to them.

    7. WoodyWoodpecker says:

      Psst…there’s a little more to this Cooper/Cooper story…

      Amy Cooper’s intentionally racist act is the important national story here, because it’s representative of a set of abhorrent, systemic problems.

      Chris Cooper’s habit of confronting dog owners is only of hyper-local interest. And it’s not representative of anything, other than Chris’s personal behavior.

      But when the national stories refer to “birdwatching while black” or “simply for asking an entitled white woman to put her dog on a leash,” that’s not true.

      Chris takes dog treats with him into the Park, specifically so he can confront dog owners. When they don’t do what he asks, he pulls out the treats and says, “Well if you’re going to do whatever you want to do, I’m going to do what I want to do,” and starts feeding the dog against the owner’s will, to panic them into running over and controlling their dog, to get the animal away from Chris and his “treats.”

      That is absolutely a threat, and totally inappropriate. You do not invite other people’s dogs to ingest unknown “food” without the owner’s consent. Even worse if it’s over the owner’s express objections. Dogs have food allergies. Owners have no idea why a stranger is feeding their dog as an act of aggression — maybe it’s even poisoned?

      You wouldn’t approach a parent, tell them how to control their toddler, and then if/when they don’t comply, say, “hey little girl, want some candy?” and give the kid candy to eat from your pocket while the alarmed parent screams “No! What is that?!? Stop!!” But this is the game Chris plays with dog owners. I know of at least two identical incidents with Chris that preceded his encounter with Amy Cooper. Exactly like that. She’s a racist, but she didn’t start behaving like that in the video because Chris politely asked her to leash her dog. This might explain why he’s been SO gracious toward Amy Cooper in the aftermath. He knows what role he played and I think he probably regrets it now.

      Having your dog off-leash in a posted leash-only area is wrong, sure. Planning to intentionally confront people and make them panic that you could be poisoning their dog so it forces them to grab and leash their dog is really f’d up.

      White people have to see themselves in Amy Cooper and explore what lurks in their hearts. Chris needs to leave the dog treats at home and confront others like a normal New Yorker.

      • al says:

        Beautifully expressed. Sadly, such a complex, nuanced interpretation doesn’t sell newspapers or attract eyeballs.

      • Ed R. says:

        If your dog is on-leash the way it’s supposed to be, nobody can lure your dog over with treats.

      • Mark P says:

        I agree wholeheartedly with al here – appropriately addresses the full situation, and thanks for that. I’m happy to see the comprehensive and largely respectful thoughts here from my UWS neighbors.

        I would also disagree that what Mr. Cooper did is not representative of anything other than his personal behavior.

        it, too, is representative of an “abhorrent, systemic problem.” Specifically: inflicting vigilante “justice” on people via social media, which by definition is partial to the promoter.

        What Amy did is very, very wrong. And so is vigilantism. Which you point out. But that is also sadly, and frighteningly, seeming to become more and more common. Because, as another commenter points out, it gets profits for media companies.

    8. Daniel A says:

      The arrogance and greed suggested by some of the comments here is unbelievable. Dogs and humans have free reign in 99.9 percent of NYC. Humans have so thoroughly dominated and trashed every inch of this precious planet, our very existence and that of all other life forms is in serious jeopardy. We had better learn to live lighter on Earth before it’s too late. Yes, that means setting aside some areas where humans are not dominant. Central Park is the crown jewel of urban parks precisely because some of it is set aside as “natural”, meant to be different from the rest of the City. Birds and other wildlife know very well that dogs and humans are predators. Love and respect for others is the hallmark of civilization, especially as regards the meek.

      • AB says:

        So. Places in the Park where human dog-owners are not dominant? Agree.

        Not sure what the heck you are saying. Humans can be meek. Clarity requested.

      • BA says:

        Bravo! Finally a voice of reason instead of self-interest. Thanks.

    9. Ari says:

      What I don’t comprehend is why owners want their dogs off leash in gathering ramble specifically. What does your dog specifically get from that single location out of many?

      • Aaron G says:

        The ramble is a unique wild conservatory. Just about the only place like it other than the north woods which isn’t nearly as safe because it’s located further uptown where most of the crime happens. As I stated above dog owners are a vast majority of the consistent users of Central Park. We are THE voting and taxpaying constituency. It’s time to take back the park for the majority of users. Birders and tourists are free to use the park as long as the needs of dog owners are met. If you want to bird alone get yourself out of the city. You do NOT have free reign of our previous wild spaces. I suggest dog owners start acting and voting for their rights. And as for anyone who offers treats to my dog – you better count your teeth.

        • Ari says:

          Cool—thanks for the threatening remarks Aaron. I love it when entitled men are aggressive toward me. It fills me with good will toward them. I’m not even a birder. Please prove dog owners are the majority users of the park. Once we start counting all the children, the cyclists, the runners, etc., I’m not so sure you will find that you are in fact the majority of the park’s users, though certainly a large presence. Again, I’ll restate my question: what specifically does a dog get from the ramble—what activities can the dog do there that are unique and necessary to its well-being?

        • Honest Abe says:

          “The ramble is a unique wild conservatory.”

          Yes, *that is why* dogs are not allowed off-leash there.

          “As I stated above dog owners are a vast majority of the consistent users of Central Park.”

          Stated, without any evidence. I am a birder who uses the park every day. I do not own a dog.

          “It’s time to take back the park for the majority of users.”

          You are not the majority, about 1/3 of households in Manhattan own a cat or a dog citywide.

    10. Melanie says:

      I am a life long dog lover and bird lover. I have 15 acres of land with hundreds of trees. I totally agree with you. Birds come first. They need as much help along their flights as possible. I am so lucky to have these beautiful creatures visit my farm and I cherish them and though they have plenty of what they need I still feed them to make their journey a little easier. They are extremely beautiful and of utmost importance to our ecosystem.

    11. Stephen Weller says:

      Dogs are personal property. A sofa has no rights.

    12. M says:

      I like watching birds and I have a dog. We walk in the ramble probably 4 times a week, she’s always on a leash, doesn’t bug the birds and honestly they don’t even seem to pay much attention to her. She does chase squirrels (extremely ineffectively), but I refuse to feel guilty about that — the exercise is good for those fluffy tailed rats and they are proliferating like crazy every year. The Cooper incident was obviously terrible, but for the small things (like the occasional dog off the leash in the wrong place), people need to stop being so whiney and mind their own business. Remember birders can be annoying too, blocking the path and gathering recently in unsafe, not-social distanced groups. Let’s not get sucked into an us vs them.

      Instead, if you want to get angry about something, please direct your ire towards (1) the drug selling /nudist ring of single middle age dudes that regularly converge in the north-center of the ramble, (2) the people on electric vehicles in the park (yes, in the ramble too, I see bikes and scooters there all the time), (3) the wannabe lance armstrongs supposedly “legally” doing morning speed trials through red lights on the outer ring of the park, or (4) the president who is rolling back countless environmental laws including many that affect birds and is doing way more damage than a few overzealous dogs getting exercise in the park. Thanks.

    13. Anne says:


    14. Mr K says:

      The mostly wonderful west side dog owners should and will comply with rules. some may be oblivious with the stress abounding.
      I suggest more well designed signage “To Dog Owners” The woman who reacted to the bird watcher was emotionally disturbed.She lost her job and made national news understandably. The wonderful intelligent man was very kind in his response. He was the only victim. She needs help and hopefully she can look at her behavior with a therapist and move forward. If I didn’t believe that most people are good I wouldn’t be me. I know some are hopeless. She was on the verge of a breakdown. Bets wishes to everyone i this covid stay at home masked madness.

    15. CB says:

      When the man told her “you are not going to like it” and refused to stop filming her and leave her alone, he posed a serious threat in my opinion which TOTALLY JUSTIFIED her calling the police. What is she supposed to do, wait to be physically assaulted? I have no idea why the media talking point is a “fake police call” as if this woman had no reason to be scared. The media didn’t tell everyone the part where he said “you are not going to like it”, did they. I am surprised that women’s groups have not taken her side, but I guess they are scared. This is actually dangerous for women because now they have to worry about just how threatened they feel and wonder if the media will agree with them if they call the police. Very sad state of affairs actually. The media is tearing this country apart. Amy Cooper made the mistake of mentioning the man’s race, but that has nothing to do with the media’s narrative that she made a fake police report.

      • Paul says:

        He was filming it, meaning there was no threat. A middle aged adult filming someone isn’t going to commit a crime while filming.

    16. UWS Baroness says:

      Dogs should always be on their leash with the exception of their designated spaces. I jog in Central Park daily and can’t stand when people run with their dogs on the path or have their the dogs take a crap on the path or sunbathing areas.. Yuck. Gross. I don’t mind pets in the park, it’s big enough for us to share ; however dog owners should keep their pets in their designated areas. Don’t break rules and try to rationalize why you break them.

    17. SCP says:

      I have a dog. She is never off the leash in areas of the park where it is prohibited. If everyone in the city ignored each rule they believed is unjust, the city wouldn’t function at all. If you want the rules changed, lobby to have them changed. Just stop breaking them to suit yourself.

    18. Thomas R Lansner says:

      Do all here who argue that they need not obey leash-on in the Ramble also agree that: cyclists need not stop at lights [not allowed-stupid rule?]; Allow BBQs and campfires on the Sheep Meadow [not allowed–stupid rule?]; motorboats should be on the Lake [not allowed–stupid rule?]; Big dance parties with full-amp music at Bethesda Fountain[not allowed-stupid rule?]… Rules are for OTHER people!

    19. Sharon Mathews says:

      I’m a dog owner/lover, but I come from the beach where everyone has a dog and lets them off leash, no matter the rules. Personally, I had an off leash dog chase my dog on leash on w/ me on a bike, tore my Acl etc huge, long expensive ordeal.. it’s rude, disrespectful! I don’t understand why people can’t follow the rules (or if they are currently breaking them- I do too sometimes when no one is around), attach the leash when someone enters the area…isn’t this just common decency?

    20. The Truth says:

      First of all, calling her a “Karen” is racist. Second of all, getting all bent out of shape and saying “African American” hardly proves racism. Sounds to me she would have acted up with any color male. Maybe she is racist, maybe not but enough the court of street opinion. Those who ganged up on her and tried to ruin her life, do you really feel good about yourself? I bet if we filmed you any one of a thousands times you were bent out of shape, and dragged you through the mud, you wouldn’t like it. Before you get tempted to give me bologna, I am not against the guy in any way & not saying he deserved this reaction. Just saying stop blowing this out of proportion just because it fits a convenient narrative for you. And stop calling everyone else racist that don’t buy into your knee jerk reaction to destroy her life with some wide sweeping assumptions. If you didn’t witness it first hand, stop filling in the blanks.

      • UWS Reader says:

        A lot of comments on here talking about how Amy Cooper was threatened or justified that seem to come from people who didn’t actually watch the video or are wildly skewing the events to make her into a victim. A few things to remember:

        1) She approached him as he asked her not to come closer – IE she was not under physical threat from him, she could have walked away right then. (and keep in mind she had control of her dog at this point)
        2) Before calling the police, she specifically noted that she would tell them he was “african american” showing that she understood the implicit threat – IE you can’t argue that she only mentioned his race to the police to give an accurate description. She specifically weaponized it and turned it into a threat BEFORE calling police.
        3) She also told the police that her life was being threatened, which I can’t see any evidence of anywhere in this interaction, which SIGNIFICANTLY escalates this situation to a life or death scenario. (Again, rather than walking away, she approached him, even after she had control of her dog).
        4) The deliberate shift in her tone of voice is incredibly damning as to her motives.
        5) People can argue that Cooper is a jerk in his methods, but so what? Personally, I am typically someone who follows rules to the best of my ability, aside from some occasional jaywalking when it seems safe. But still, if I misjudge the speed of a car and they have to slam on the brakes and honk at me, I don’t call the cops about an attempted vehicular manslaughter. If I get called out when I am technically in the wrong, I usually mutter a quick sorry and correct my action (even if I roll my eyes about it immediately after). If you don’t think rolling your bike through stop signs, or letting your dog loose in the park is a big deal, whatever, you are kind of a jerk. But when you get called out on it, don’t get indignant and threaten the person calling you out. Just quickly apologise and move on with your life.

        Amy Cooper started off in the wrong (agree or not, dogs are not allowed off leash in the ramble) and was then presented with probably 50 different exit ramps to either de-escalate or walk away and instead she slammed the gas pedal to the floor and knowingly turned race into a threat.

        • Stu says:

          They both acted stupidly and displayed very poor social judgment. He shouldn’t have threatened her and pushed her buttons (“Look, if you’re going to do what you want, I’m going to do what I want, but you’re not going to like it.”). And she obviously should not have reacted in the way she did.

          • UWS Reader says:

            As long as we can agree that one was way, way, way more stupid, reckless, and racist than the other.

        • Lashawn Martin says:

          In his Facebook post Mr. Cooper posted what he said to her.

          ME: Look, if you’re going to do what you want, I’m going to do what I want, but you’re not going to like it.
          HER: What’s that?
          ME (to the dog): Come here, puppy!
          HER: He won’t come to you.
          ME: We’ll see about that…

          Any normal person would take that as a threat.

    21. Weird That Way says:

      A wee indoor cat: a good thing! Minus zero degrees? No problem. Indoor cat. Rabies afoot? Nope, your indoor cat is safe. Ticks in the woods in Pelham Bay Park? No worries for you or your your sweet indoor cat. Human-to-human squabbles in the Ramble? Not if you don’t have to walk a doggie. I like doge but do yourself a favor. Adopt a kittie!

    22. Tom says:

      Isn’t it true that the dog runs were closed when this incident occurred?

    23. Jake Dael says:

      We were already discussing calling the police about Christian Cooper weeks before the Amy Cooper incident. I wish we had.

      In the middle of a pandemic he’s been in the park maskless threatening people and their dogs. It’s telling the video begins only after he had threatened Amy Cooper.

      Reports from our neighbors is his manner is not mild and he often screams at people that they are entitled and spoiled. He’s often accompanied by another woman who gets equally abusive.

      Perhaps birders need to calm down. I understand their passion, but acting like bird vigilantes is uncalled for. There’s no saving Amy Cooper from Cancel Culture, but I question Christian Cooper appropriating causes and marching through the media claiming equal status with other more lethal incidents.

      Birder vs Dogger is as old as the hills in Central Park. But Cooper has no right to attack people, especially when it results in such serious consequences. I hope he fully enjoys his 15 minutes.

      The streets have been filled with a heartening and overdo call for racial justice. But I believe racial justice is best served by truth.

      • UWS Reader says:

        Masks aren’t required outside unless it’s somewhere you can’t maintain social distance (which I don’t think the park qualifies). Also what are the many threats you are mentioning? Has he threatened physical violence or harm? Keep in mind the Amy Cooper situation escalated after she had regained (quite aggressively I might add) control of her dog and she continued to approach him as he asked her not to. Just curious what level of threats you are talking about here.

    24. Petless dog and bird fan says:

      Thanks for the evenhanded coverage of this neighborhood turf tussle. Birders ( and other park goers) – of course some spaces should be dog free. Dog owners, there is so much to enjoy- you are lucky – stop kvetching over the few child and adult non dog playground spaces!

      Quick question for the birders: is this tactic of offering treats to strange dogs, specifically to incentivize owners to clip the leash back on, a common one? I’ve been asking my dog owning friends how they’d react – it’s clever, but kind of fiendishly aggressive-passive. On the one hand, postal delivery workers use treats to distract and mollify threatening dogs. But this is not about the dog, it’s intended to change the owners behavior. My basic feeling is (especially in this city) this is fait game. But I want to hear more!

      • Lucinda Meyer says:

        I have no dog in this fight, so to speak, as I live in the middle of the Maine woods now because I wanted out of the crowded urban area where I used to live. But I have been a birder for over 30 years. Domestic pets that are free to roam are the number one killer of songbirds. people don’t realize how loss of habitat, predation by other animals, wind turbines, window strikes, fireworks, insecticides, loss of food source (red knots and the battle for the horseshoe crab with humans, for example), put wild bird populations under so much stress.
        Give the birds a break. It doesn’t seem like much of a sacrifice to have a dog on a leash in designated areas. Seems like it’s more people being jerks who don’t want to do it and then rationalize their behavior.
        There’s plenty of blame to go around in the case we’re discussing. But it’s hysterical overreaction to call what Cooper did a threat. Nobody warns you if they really want to hurt you. No mugger says I’m about to do something and you’re not going to like it. Two wrongs don’t make a right, though. And what the woman did could have resulted in physical harm to Cooper if law enforcement arrived.
        This is so simple. Keep your dogs on leashes in that area. Think about something other than yourself for a change. Give the birds a break, follow the rules, and then find a way to virtue signal about it to make yourself feel better.

    25. Essie says:

      1) Open all the dog runs. Stupid to have closed them. That’s the only safe place.
      2) Dogs on leashes in public parks – ALLL the time. Its scary to run/walk early and stranger dogs around. Some are huge.
      3) Give dogs a separate closed off area.

    26. Veronica says:

      Amy and Chris deserve each other. Neither is winning any awards here. Each should be banned from Central Park, for life.

    27. Judith Dresher says:

      Many dogs are off leash in Riverside Park above 96 th Street and many roam free in the bird sanctuary where they are not allowed.

      • Matt H says:

        Technically it’s the part Riverside from 100th-110th there that’s on leash at all times. 96th-100th is okay. That and the Forever Wild area further north.

        But really I’m not going to gripe about this right now with the dog run at 105th Street closed off.

    28. jan says:

      We should tree pets like most other things. Thy should require the owner to have a license, thus it is taxed. The City is too crowded for pets.

    29. izzy says:

      I’m confused by this entire thred. Dogs can be off leash between 9pm and 9am…it’s the park rules. There’s no gray area there. If they are off leash outside of those hours, the dog owner is in the wrong, if it’s between those hours, the bird watchers should come back another time. Why is this even a conversation?

      • Steve Mathews says:

        Both complete idiots – the dog should be on leash, but that doesn’t justify a threat to poison the dog, which in turn doesn’t justify a malicious and racist police call. Just a shameful and asinine performance all around.

      • C says:

        You missed the part about some areas in Central Park where dogs are never allowed off-leash no matter the hour. See someone’s comprehensive list above from Central Park Conservancy.

      • JL says:

        @izzy confused: Please read post #6 regarding park rules. I would also add the CP precinct has asked (been this way for at least 25 years) cyclists who train in the morning do so before 8AM. So add the loop drive to the list of location where dogs need to be under control. Yes, cyclists (bicycle hate in every story, except when you want your Kung Pao) and can be harmed by loose dogs, and dogs can also be hurt by hard contact with CP maintenance vehicles.

        This unfortunate encounter would NOT be an issue as many people are rude and angry under stress (the norm even pre-covid19). This went “viral” because she was caught saying “I’m going to call the police and tell them…”. One can pontificate all you want about what was on the minds of these two, but you can not change what was actually recorded on camera (easily).

        BTW, it’s free “rein” everyone.

      • LivableCity says:

        See Comment # 6 – and thanks to Daniel A. for taking the time time to detail all FOURTEEN small areas of this large park where even in off-leash hours dogs must be leashed.

        CP Conservancy has a good plan. Living with it appears challenging for some. I’d only just plead with the folks who want to “call police” on rule breakers that this is just what taxpayers don’t need the NYPD to be spending time and hours on. I believe there is a park Enforcement Patrol. If that’s not enough to calm your agita, hire a bodyguard.

      • m.pipik says:

        It has been explained many times in the comments.

        There are quite a few places where the 9 to 9 rule does not apply and leashes are required at all times. The Ramble is one of them.

    30. Timberdoodle says:

      I feel compelled to bring up a couple of points here: The Ramble and North Woods are being referred to as “wild” places, but they are NOT. They are carefully planted and maintained by the parks, and every time I see dogs off leash tearing through the vegetation and people climbing the fences that were clearly placed there to preserve the plantings, destruction occurs.
      There are GOOD reasons for these rules, and it should not be hard to abide by them, so that EVERONE can enjoy the parks.

    31. Stu says:

      What the city should do is remove parking from Central Park North and create a protected dog lane, so that dogs can freely and safely roam along the avenue.

      In all seriousness, the tall buildings are a much bigger threat to migrating birds than s fe off-leash dogs in the park. The glass building on 110th and FDB has killed hundreds!

    32. Leslie Rupert says:

      I am a dog owner and have been so my entire life. For dog owners not to respect the on leash requirement in order to protect wildlife in areas of the park designated as such is reprehensible, its selfish, its disrectful and inexcusable. There is simply no excuse.
      Furthermore, it tarnishes the reputations of responsible dog owners.

    33. What is wrong with all of you. The issue is not about dogs and birds. I’m amazed at how you have more respect for animals than you have for a human being. A white woman called the police and lied saying see was being attached by a Black man. Her ass should have gone to jail. Those police officers that showed up could have been helping someone who was really in trouble. Shame on you West Side Rag. “Humans and dogs are not so different after all” Are you serious. How dare you write this LONG article downplaying Amy Cooper’s action because of an issue between Dogs and Birds.
      Write a LONG detailed article about Racism on the UWS. I dare you!!!

      • JL says:

        Re: Long article about racism on the UWS.

        Pictures are worth a few words, it’s kinda what you asked for, sort of.

        Self-examination is never pleasant or easy. It’s beneficial for biological organisms to pre-judge (prejudice) something “unfamiliar”.

        As human beings, I think the idea of America has to evolve and live up to its original ideals to thrive in this diverse century.

        It is not accurate to think the UWS is as progressive as we think we are (or even 25 years ago). A lot of the people in the arts have been priced out of Manhattan. Entitlement goes hand in hand with higher incomes.

        Racism will not be resolved on the WSR. People who enjoy the privileges have little need to change. It has taken this long to acknowledge(as a start) that it even exist left of center. I can’t help but wonder how America would’ve turned out had MLK and RFK had not been assassinated in the 60s.

        The divide on the UWS will be between the haves and the have nots, I walked by the food pantry line at the Rutgers Church this evening, it’s longer than the line at TJ’s a block away. Citarellas is open (no line) and fully stocked if others have a need to pay East Hampton prices.

    34. rteplow says:

      I don’t understand how there are two sides to this! Apologies for repeating points that have been made already, but:

      1. Your dog should always be on a leash when in the Rambles.

      2. I don’t understand why Amy Cooper felt so threatened. At any time, she could have WALKED AWAY.

      3. What is so threatening about being videotaped? Don’t you see how crucial that video of George Floyd’s murder was?

      4. People seem to find Chris Cooper so threatening but there is so little acknowledgement that Amy Cooper was fully aware that her call could have resulted in injury or even death.

    35. Shirley Ariker says:

      The most important issue was Amy Cooper’s using a racist threat. Yes, birds need to be protected, and yes, dog owners need to follow park rules. But first of all, people of color need to be protected from racism. This encounter between two people so revealed how easily racism can be weaponized.
      I own a dog and am white. I was beyond appalled by Amy Cooper. The punishments hardly fit the crime of threatening a man’s life.

    36. Evan Bando says:

      Turning this issue into a conflict between “passionate” dog walkers/owners and birders misses the point completely. There are good and sensible rules in Central Park that require a leash after 9 AM until 9 PM. In addition, dogs must be on a leash at all times in the Ramble. That’s all there is to it. Ticket the passionate (more like ‘self-important’) dog walkers and leave it at that.

    37. FoolingNobody says:

      Better headline:”CHRISTIAN COOPER Was Creating Tension with Dogwalkers Long Before #AmyCooper Incident”

      Receipts: Community Board meeting minutes (scroll down to Parks & Environment on 5/18/20).

      A week BEFORE #AmyCooper. Christian was there. In a tizzy over leash enforcement. And at the end of the meeting, complaining he’s been assaulted in the park because he’s black. It’s all there those minutes.

      People probably DID assault Cooper. But not because of race. Because he baits and goads people until they lose it. Cooper is a threatening, confrontational jerk who makes people fear for their dogs’ safety. Then he plays gentle, nerdy, Harvard-educated birdwatcher victim.

      Cooper has issues. He seeks out and creates serious confrontations. Evidence is in that meeting, it showed where his mind was at.

      AND it’s in the NYT article that broke #AmyCooper, AND also his own Facebook post. He literally admits what he does. Confronts dog owners and messes with their dogs once they are “intransigent.” (“Intransigent”??? Are you the appropriate person to be ordering people around? Are you deputy park ranger Cooper now?)

      Amy Cooper is a racist witch. She’s unstable (look it up she’s been sued for stalking). But Christian Cooper needs to take several seats. I support BLM, all the way. This particular guy, Cooper, has mental issues and needs to work on himself. Maybe the Coopers deserve each other. But we’re only hearing about how she intended harm, and not what he clearly intended.

    38. Ruth Bonnet says:

      So – HUGE dog person here. And my dog was ALWAYS on leash in the ramble, even during “off leash” hours because it’s the ramble, and those are the rules. Amy Cooper used her white privilege as a weapon and would not have made that call if Chris Cooper had been white. End of story. We’re in a small city. We should follow both etiquette and rules!

    39. Dee Dee says:

      Dogs off leash are dangerous to the disabled, elderly and small children. If your dog bites you are responsible.
      It’s never ok to toss a “treat” to someone’s dog. How could you feel if someone tried to give candy to your child? Dogs like children have life threatening allergies. Many dog haters over noise/etc. have poisoned dogs.
      Maybe meter maids should be stationed in preserve areas or they should be fenced off.

    40. Joanne says:

      I have a dog who is very sweet with people but no so with other dogs. So I get nervous when I see dogs off leash because it makes it harder for me to control my very strong dog. There is one guy on 72nd street who insists on keeping his large aggressive dog off leash and our dogs have had uncomfortable encounters, last time was in Riverside Park. The owner had the nerve to tell me that I should get a friendly dog. It is perfectly legal to have an unfriendly dog. It is NOT legal to let your dog off leash outside of dog runs. Case closed.

    41. Upperwestslider says:

      The entitlement here amazes me. We live in a city where we already have to share limited space and be respectful of multiple competing interests. This should not be an issue. The park is a big place. How hard can it be to limit your dogs roaming to the large swaths of the park that are not the Ramble or similarly densely wooded areas? I’m in the park all the time with my dog and don’t see anyone or any dog suffering under this Reasonable limitation. But don’t get me started on bikers riding on cart paths or park maintenance vehicles cruising at high speed on the walking paths during times when dogs are allowed off the leash.

    42. Brenda says:

      Two Words: LEASH LAW

      We have leash laws and the people who break those laws should be fined.
      It doesn’t make the owner appear “cool” to have their dog off leash, it makes them look selfish.
      Dogs off leash are a menace to wildlife, children, bicyclists, runners, mobility challenged and the dogs themselves.
      The city has plenty of dog parks if you feel your dog cannot tolerate a 6-foot leash.

      A dog owner

    43. Bobippie says:

      This lady wasnt obviously to concerned with her dogs welfare or safety, since she was strangling the dog in her out of control rage. Why is it so hard for young people to understand that if a sign says leash your pet, to do it?

    44. GK says:

      Allowing dogs to be off-leash, outside dog runs, is a bad law (or privilege) no matter how you look at it.

      Why allowing dogs off-leash before 9 am when this is the time when all birds are looking for food? Don’t birds have rights? Or are we discriminating against birds in favor of dogs?

      Also, don’t many people go for their exercise (running or jogging or walking) in the early morning hours? Why should they be worried about off-leash dogs tripping or chasing them?

      Why allowing dogs off-leash any time of the day? Aren’t there many people who are very afraid of them? Are dogs more important than people?

      Solution: Put laws that ban off-leash dogs outside dog runs any time of the day and apply it very strictly.

      The only way to get rid of this stupid law or privilege (allowing off leash hours) is by pressuring the authorities to reverse it.

      Can someone start a petition.

      • C says:

        Start one online and let us know. We’ll sign it.

      • Mark P says:

        It’s a great idea, because you are absolutely correct, dogs ARE a danger to people, not just birds. Several years ago, I was biking uphill, not speeding – probably going about 15mph – on Central Park’s east drive, on a Friday morning at 8am. An off leash dog ran across the road right in front of me and I braked hard to avoid hitting it. Dog was fine – I went over the handle bars and broke my collar bone. The dog owner was apologetic and stayed until the ambulance came – but he was not in control of his dog, and I suffered injury as a result. You can’t be when they’re off leash.

    45. Kristin Cunnar says:

      I wonder how many other times that Christian Cooper offered dog owners with their dog off its leash a dog treat for his or her dog? I do not endorse this type of, in my opinion, psychological attack on dog owners.

    46. EricaC says:

      Dogs should not be in this area. Simple rule. Should not happen. (I have dogs; they do not go there.) Has nothing to do with dogs not paying taxes – there is room for both dogs and humans here, and there is no reason for dogs to go into a place that is reserved for non-dog activities.

    47. L. says:

      two days ago I saw an off leash dog attack a Robin and leave it with a broken wing. The owner just walked off, looking at her iPhone, couldn’t have cared less. I took the injured bird to the Wild Bird Sanctuary and hope for the best. Dog behavior is, to an extent a result of their humans. Their owner didn’t care to make sure her dog did not hurt other living things, so, given the opportunity, it did.

    48. JD says:

      Does anyone know where exactly in the Ramble, the Cooper-Cooper confrontation took place?

    49. Kristin Cunnar says:

      I remember how difficult it can be to have foreign people living in foreign countries accept food stuffs out of fear that the food might be dangerous to eat. I hope future birdwatchers refrain from dog treats, as a mechanism of fear.

    50. JL says:

      I have no dog in this fight.
      CB7 wants more NYPD enforcement in CP for dog owners? Gale Brewer wants PEP to handle this without guns.

    51. JL says:

      Chris Cooper, who was a guest at the CB meeting, actually wants more policing in The Ramble.