The Port Authority Bus Terminal’s much-awaited multibillion-dollar makeover will lead to at least one loss — a Midtown mini-park relied on by the hounds of Hell’s Kitchen and their owners.
Astro’s Community Dog Run, tucked alongside a bus ramp overpass west of the intersection of Tenth Avenue and West 39th Street, has been a sanctuary for dogs and their owners for about 25 years. Members pay a modest annual fee to receive a key to the volunteer-managed wedge of open space.
But all that is set to end, after the Port Authority informed the dog park’s leadership that users will have to vacate the park, which is on property owned by the authority. Astro’s webpage says the dog run will close at the end of the year, as W42St previously reported.
Ryan Brodsky, an advisory board member for Astro’s, said the dog run has 227 members with about 250 dogs. He said that while the board charged $50 a year to access the park, the fee has been temporarily suspended given the imminent closure.
“It’s a great little space in New York City. With the flowers blooming, it’s gorgeous,” Brodsky said. “It’s a small community in a city of 8 million people.”
Seth Stein, a Port Authority spokesperson, told THE CITY in a statement that the authority has committed to create new community space and will give Astro’s advance notice about when the pups will need to vacate.
“Our Midtown bus terminal redevelopment project will create more than three acres of much needed green and open community space, while also maintaining bus service and minimizing the impact of construction,” the statement reads.
“We will provide ample notification of any closures or changes to current open spaces, including Astro’s Dog Run. We look forward to working with all members of the community to identify the features of the new community spaces, which will be delivered following the construction of the new bus terminal.”
The Port Authority currently says the new terminal will be delivered in 2032.
Manhattan Community Board 4 passed a resolution last week calling on the Port Authority to keep Astro’s open until the space is needed for construction, and requesting that the authority work with Astro’s representatives to locate and designate a new alternative space before the current one is closed.
Jeffrey LeFrancois, CB4’s chair, said the authority has other underutilized properties within the district that could serve as a new home for the dog run.
“Given how this dog run has become an outlet for our four-legged friends and their owners, our hope is that Port Authority would find a close location whether in the interim or permanent,” LeFrancois told THE CITY.
A Valued Refuge
Graham Haber and his dog Astro moved to Hell’s Kitchen from Los Angeles in 1989, according to the park’s history web page, penned by his wife Anastasia Aukeman Haber. He originally found Astro at a Los Angeles gas station, where several German Shepherd-Rottweiler puppies were left in a box.
Haber and his dog adapted to New York, where, the page reads: “A parking lot is what passes for a backyard in Hell’s Kitchen and Astro and Graham frequented them all.” Haber became a member of CB4, and then he and other members of the board and of Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood Association zeroed in on the property abutting the Port Authority overpass as the perfect spot for a dog run.
That opened in 1997, and Haber and Astro continued to frequent the park, eventually joined by Haber’s wife Anastasia and their daughter Zola. The couple welcomed twin children in October 2001; Astro would die of old age two months later. In 2021, Haber died of cancer at age 58.
“This is a pretty industrial neighborhood,” Aukeman Haber said to THE CITY, “and from the very beginning the park was a place to gather with other like-minded people from the neighborhood — or, not like-minded people, but people with dogs.”
She said the park has taken on more significance for her and her children since the passing of her husband. She still frequents the park several times a week with her two dogs, one a Chihuahua-Golden Retriever-Mini Pinscher mix and the other a German Shepherd-Pomeranian mix that she said has similar markings to Astro. She hopes that there will be a new site and that it keeps its namesake.
Today, there is a poster featuring Astro’s picture affixed to the entrance of the park, which also features a barbecue, hoses, and balls for games of fetch.
Some online reviewers have criticized Astro’s for charging for membership. Board member Mike Mellenger, who has been going to the park for five years with his terrier mix Hudson, said that keeping the space locked allows it to be open 24/7 and stops the park from being overrun by people who are unhoused.
He noted a dearth of dedicated dog space in the area — pointing to the development of Bella Abzug Park in Hudson Yards, which has no dedicated dog area.
“It’s disappointing that with all this planning that goes on there’s been a blatant disregard for dog space,” Mellenger said.