ARF-ARF to Be Recognized for Volunteer Work

 ARF-ARF to Be Recognized for Volunteer Work

By Katie McFadden

When people come together to do good things, it can create something beautiful. That was the aim when NYC Parks rolled out its Let’s Green NYC initiative in June, a campaign to engage a record number of volunteers in city parks by the end of 2024, for the betterment of New Yorkers’ personal wellbeing, and the city’s greenspaces. One prime longtime local example of that is ARF-ARF (Allied Rockaway Foundation for Animal Recreation and Fitness), and their hard work to nourish and grow Rockaway’s dog parks and pet-loving community is about to be recognized by Rockaway Creates at their Winter Wonderment Gala on Saturday, January 20.

One sometimes overlooked aspect of the Covid pandemic was that it fostered loneliness, as activities slowed, and folks were forced to spend more time isolated at home. As the pandemic subsided, that feeling remained for many, but some were seeking ways to break out of it. NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue wanted to point those folks to an outlet where they could get back out into New York City’s greenspaces, dedicate volunteer time to making them even better, and foster relationships with likeminded people. In June, Parks launched the Let’s Green NYC initiative. The program included the creation of a website where New Yorkers could find short and long-term volunteer opportunities across the five boroughs.

“Ultimately, volunteering in our parks helps foster these special connections between New Yorkers and that’s key to public health and it helps the health of our parks,” NYC Parks Chief Strategy Officer Jennifer Hoppa said. “You have the benefit of meeting people by joining in a common purpose, getting physical in many cases, and you get to see accomplishments and all of those things are good for mental and physical health, and those connections you make can really boost you up, especially coming out of the pandemic and in this era where we’re trying to combat loneliness.”

While the Let’s Green NYC initiative was a big push to increase volunteerism, with even the cast of “Wicked” on Broadway helping to spread the word, NYC Parks has long welcomed volunteers, sometimes with partners. One of those longtime partners is ARF-ARF. And it all started when those behind ARF-ARF saw a local park in need. The organization formed in 2008 to prevent Rockaway Freeway Dog Park from becoming a waste transfer station. They launched petitions to save the park and advocated with elected officials to keep it as a designated dog park, and then got to work trying to make improvements to the space that is utilized by so many of Rockaway’s dog owners. By 2012, ARF-ARF officially became a 501c3, shortly before Hurricane Sandy hit, a time when they had to work even harder to bring back the park and foster its longevity, while also bringing supplies to pet owners affected by the tragedy.

As an all-volunteer organization, currently operated by executive director Zina Moratti, community liaison Keren McEneaney and treasurer Galit Tsadik, the ladies have put in the time to advocate for the Rockaway Freeway Dog Park and now the Shore Front Dog Run, working in partnership with NYC Parks since 2017, creating beautiful spaces for dog owners to gather. Together, ARF-ARF and NYC Parks have replaced snow fencing at Freeway Dog Park, held park cleanup days, added new rules signs and new banners at both dog parks, and more. “We have a good relationship with the Parks Department, and it’s been really nice,” Tsadik said.

And then they’ve done things to make it even better by really fostering a community within those parks through events like Santa Paws around the holidays with their mascot Rocky, the Halloween costume contest, doggy ice cream socials and It’s My Bark Day to celebrate doggy birthdays. They’ve also connected with partners to bring in services like dog adoption events, training classes, and vaccination and spay and neuter clinics, things that aren’t easily accessible on the peninsula. Of course, all of these things require funding, and the ladies have worked hard to advocate for it, by applying for grants and opportunities through participatory budgeting.

Through their many years of dedication, the Rockaway Freeway Dog Park has almost become self-sustaining. “The Freeway Dog Park is like a baby we nurtured and now it’s an adult and is taking care of itself. It’s become a part of the Rockaways,” McEneaney said. “It’s such a staple now and everyone knows about it,” Tsadik added. Their next focus is fostering the new baby, the Shore Front Parkway Dog Run on Beach 92nd Street, plus ramping up events at both parks.

ARF-ARF’s work has not gone unnoticed. The organization and the Freeway Dog Park have received several awards and grants including the 2010 Queens Outstanding Partnership Award (Partnerships for Parks), 2011 Community Groundbreaker Award (Citizens Committee for NYC), 2011 “Best of Outdoors” Dog Park (Curbed NY), 2013 PfP Superstorm Sandy Recovery, 2018 Partnership for Parks Capacity Grant, and 2020 Partnership for Parks Legacy Award.

And this Saturday at Jade Events on Beach 129th Street, ARF-ARF will be awarded once again, as one of 11 local nonprofits that are being recognized by Rockaway Creates at the Winter Wonderment Gala, that have gone above and beyond for the community. “We are so excited,” Tsadik said. “It is really nice to be recognized as an organization that is here for the benefit of the Rockaways because that’s our goal. It’s always been about making Rockaway a better, more inclusive, more inviting place.”

While being awarded for their good work is always exciting, those behind ARF-ARF say the benefits of volunteering with the organization to help better Rockaway’s dog parks is consistently rewarding. The ladies say because of it, they’ve formed meaningful relationships and have been proud to see the dog parks do the same for others. “Keren and Zina and I have become really good friends volunteering together, and also just meeting people in the park and forming relationships with them,” Tsadik said. “There are so many people who have moved to the neighborhood and sometimes the first person they meet is in the dog park. We’ve become like a welcoming committee for the Rockaways in some ways, and we’re proud of that. It’s so much more than a dog run,” McEneaney said.

“It has so much to do with mental health,” Tsadik added. “During Covid, we really became aware of the value of this park. We have all kinds of people that come to this park, and I don’t think many of the people would’ve met each other if it weren’t for the park. A lot of them hang out on a regular basis and get together for social events or babysit each other’s dogs and it’s a great thing to see that,” McEneaney said.

ARF-ARF is always looking for volunteers. If you love dogs and want to be a part of something that makes the community better, consider joining. More information can be found at

For information about other Let’s Green NYC volunteer opportunities, see:

For tickets to Rockaway Creates’ Gala on Saturday, see:

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