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Queens puppies get workout at Little Bay Park

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Queens officials — and their pets — celebrated the opening of a permanent dog run in Little Bay Park, a proposal which was once so contentious that it led to a fist fight at a Community Board 7 meeting, speakers noted at last week’s event.

“At the time, it was very controvers­ial,” said state Sen.-elect Tony Avella. “I think now everyone recognizes this is a wonderful addition.”

Avella secured $500,000 for the permanent dog run in Bayside while he was in the City Council. There had been a temporary dog run in the same spot that opened in 2005.

In addition to the run, which includes a separate area for big and small dogs, there are drinking fountains for pets and owners, new benches, a 4-foot high chain link fence around the perimeter and an underground drainage system. There is also a new asphalt path that connects the dog run to the waterfront path and Utopia Parkway.

Avella was joined at Friday’s celebration by Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone), who brought his Great Dane puppy named Esme, City Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, Community Board 7 members and the president of the Freedom Run Association, a group of Queens residents who have volunteered to maintain the dog run. Former Borough President Claire Shulman also attended the event and brought her dog, Rocket.

“This dog run will provide so many of our residents an opportunity to get out and bring their dogs out,” said Halloran, whose dog made the most of her time outside by running around the area.

Benepe also noted that the day was a welcome end to a long battle for the dog run, which included a bloody fist fight between two representatives from the Robinwood Homeowners and the Freedom Run Association in 2004. Some residents living near the run had initially been opposed to it when it was proposed in 2005, but CB 7 Parks Committee Chairwoman´╗┐ Kim O’Hanian said most people eventually “calmed down and realized what a great thing this is.”

CB 7 had long been an advocate for the run, Benepe and O’Hanian said.

“Every dog must have his day,” Benepe said. “Today’s a big day for little dogs and big dogs.”

As the event’s unofficial emcee, Benepe entertained the gathering of about 25 people with several pet jokes.

“What’s a dog’s favorite city?” he asked. “New Yorkie.”

Whitestone resident Miguel Chavez, president of the Freedom Run Association, said he was thrilled to see the dog run finally come to fruition.

“Dogs are social animals and having them able to run free and run to other dogs helps the shy dogs learn they can participate and helps owners with rambunctious dogs,” Chavez said. “People get to see other dog owners. This cuts across political, age and ethnic lines.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

Updated 6:14 pm, October 10, 2011
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