If New York is dead, then what killed it? Julian Casablancas blamed brunch. Sean Hannity left the city for Florida after complaining about income tax. And just before plunging to her death from a high-rise window, Sex and the City’s (fictional) party girl Lexi Featherston ranted about how everything started to go wrong in New York after they banned smoking in bars.
This week, Chloë Sevigny, longtime cool girl of downtown Manhattan, added another theory to the list. While promoting the new Ryan Murphy series Feud: Capote and the Swans, Sevigny told Rolling Stone that it’s all dogs’ fault.
“The athleisure and the dogs are taking over, and that’s really unfortunate,” Sevigny said. “Everybody’s in Lululemon and has a fucking dog and it’s driving me crazy. I’m sorry, dog lovers. There are too many of you.”
What do New York’s dog owners have to say about this? In Brooklyn’s Maria Hernandez park on Thursday, where a popular dog run just received approval for a $300,000 renovation (what budget crisis?), pup parents shrugged off Sevigny’s comments.
“I’m wearing Lululemon now, so this is a perfect question for me,” said Abby Walsh, an illustrator out walking her ageing chihuahua Calypso. “There is definitely a lack of respect from dog owners who keep their dogs off-leash or don’t properly train them. I find that this usually happens in more wealthier neighborhoods, but then the people who get penalized for their animals are typically not those white, Lululemon girls.”
Nearby, a woman named Stefanie played fetch with her pit bull Bebe, who was off-leash on a soccer turf where dogs are not allowed to play. “Dog owners are a specific category of annoying person,” she said. “I’m annoying, to some degree, though it’s my responsibility to handle my dog. I take that seriously, but have you seen how people let their dogs act on the Upper East Side?”
Jeremy, on a walk with his pup Sigmar, agreed that dogs generally behave well in neighborhoods like Bushwick, a historically working-class, Puerto Rican neighborhood that’s rapidly gentrifying with an influx of young creatives priced out of downtown Manhattan and Williamsburg. He said that he could imagine wealthier spots, such as Sevigny’s former homes in the East Village and Park Slope, being bastions of entitled owners.
“If I lived Chloe’s life, where she was walking around with other wealthy people basically being upper-class Karens having a fit when their dogs aren’t allowed at yoga, then I might understand,” he said. “Her world is very small if dogs are what she complains about the most. I don’t like to slag people off, but everyone in Brooklyn has a dog, and that’s not new.” (Fact check: this writer lives in Brooklyn and is a cat person.)
Out of all the reasons to ring the death knell for a once-great city, dogs might seem low on the list. New Yorkers face record-high rents and an ever-soaring cost of living. Mayor Eric Adams slashed the city’s budgets, affecting schools, libraries, sanitation and more. Walk through just about any public park in Manhattan and you’re bound to run into a twentysomething with a mini microphone asking if you’ll answer a few questions for a TikTok video. Surely all of those examples are far worse than canine companions.
Across the East River in downtown Manhattan’s Washington Square Park, the setting for Sevigny’s breakout role in the coming-of-age-on-the-streets drama Kids, Isabella Mino spent her morning at the dog park with Nirvana, a pit bull mix with striking blue eyes and a peaceful demeanor worthy of her name. Mino took issue with Sevigny’s assumption that all New York dog owners were rich or could afford Lululemon, where yoga pants can cost more than $100.
“She’s talking about the 1%, but that’s not me and it’s not a lot of people,” Mino said. “Owning a dog doesn’t have to do with money, it has to do with love. New York can be a very lonely city, and looking for humans to love is not always easy. I have friends now, but it took me a couple of years to get to that point, and dogs help.”
Noel W Anderson was in the park walking Thelonious Monk, his foxhound mix. The New York University art professor called his four-year-old pet a “studio dog” who accompanies him to class.
“When my students are having a hard time, they lay on the floor and pet him,” Anderson said. “Dogs are a hell of a benefit emotionally, and New York will put you through the fucking ringer. Maybe Chloë needs to reformulate her understanding of what life needs to be. Why does New York have to be gritty? That’s this bullshit illusion of this city, that you have to struggle to make it. But dogs are healers.”
Jenny Dwin had brought her pup Winston to the park on her day off hoping to run into the Dogist, an Instagram account run by the pet photographer Elias Weiss Friedman. Winston wore a grey-and-red striped sweater for the occasion. Dwin felt disappointed by Sevigny’s stance.
“First of all, who cares what you wear? She’s always wearing high-low stuff, so she of all people should let us have our Lululemon,” Dwin said. “Second, if people choose to put their dog in a sweater and a bowtie, then so be it.”