Brooklyn startup Dog Parker announced Friday afternoon it is pulling all of its dog houses out of the city after a notice from the city’s Department of Transportation warning that it would remove the houses from the sidewalk.
Dog Parker cofounder Chelsea Brownridge said by phone Sunday that the company will move its headquarters and manufacturing out of New York if it is unable to reach an agreement with the city. She said the company has plans to deploy the dog houses in three new cities, to be named soon.
“If we can’t figure it out, yeah, we can’t continue to grow here and we would not choose to do our work and our manufacturing here and grow our jobs here,” Brownridge said. “We would do it somewhere else.”
Dog Parker is the inventor of a dog house of the same name. The dog houses are climate-controlled and typically appear on the sidewalk outside of high-traffic stores, for users to pop their pup in while they shop. The company has installed more than 40 dog houses outside of stores in Brooklyn and has more than 1,000 customer accounts.
Brownridge said that the city’s Department of Transportation sent Dog Parker a notice in November that the dog houses were not in compliance with DOT regulations and the company had two weeks to remove all of them from the city. She said that she had been reaching out to the DOT for the three years the startup has existed, to try to avoid a situation like this, but had never gotten a call back or a returned email until this fall. That set up several months of back and forth between Dog Parker and the DOT, which ended Friday with Dog Parker’s removal of all the houses.
“They just told us we’re not in compliance and we need to remove houses and, unfortunately, we haven’t gotten any answers,” Brownridge explained. “It was without citing any violations or receiving any complaints. … We decided ‘the heck with this’ and we have other opportunities in other cities and decided to remove the houses before they could or would.”
The Department of Transportation responded to a request for comment with a short statement.
“The City had been in discussions with Dog Parker Inc. for more than a year about their structures that create obstructions on sidewalks that are clearly public property,” the department wrote in an email.
— Mayor Richard Thomas (@MayorRichThomas) January 24, 2018
Ironically, Dog Parker has received significant help from the city over the years. Brownridge said the company has enjoyed friendly relations with the city in the past, and, in fact, received its first financing from the city-backed New York City Economic Development Corporation. Brownridge and her cofounder Todd Schechter live in Brooklyn, work out of New Lab at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and have the Dog Parkers manufactured in Long Island City.
“What I’m surprised by is that a city like New York that can be cutting edge in so many different ways,” Brownridge trailed off. “It’s disappointing that there’s all this work going on but that the right hand isn’t talking to the left hand and a single agency seems extremely unwilling to [talk].”
She noted that Dog Parker is not alone in feeling a contradiction between the city’s innovation talk and its regulatory walk.
“Working in a place like New Lab, our story is not the only one like this,” she said. “There are so many startups that are trying to do demos here do betas here and they’re being stonewalled by city agencies.”
Still, Brownridge is hopeful a reconciliation can be reached. City Council member Rafael Espinal, whose district includes Bushwick and Brownsville, is working with the company to get legislation passed which would solve the impasse. Several other council members have voiced support as well.-30-