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Lou Lodati Park is going to the dogs

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Elected officials, the city Parks Department and Sunnyside dog owners came together last Thursday to unveil a plan that would not only make Lou Lodati Park nicer for residents but for their four-legged friends.

City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), Borough President Helen Marshall, Queens Parks Department Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski, civic leaders and numerous dogs presented the plan for a $1.4 million renovation of the park on 43rd Street and Skillman Avenue that would include more greenery, repaved and renovated softball courts, volleyball courts and basketball half-courts, new lighting and, most importantly, a dog run for big and small canines.

“It’s a great park already. It’s going to be so much more wonderful when all of this is done,” Van Bramer said.

CB 2 approved the dog run and the renovations at its regular monthly meeting last Thursday.

The dog run has been a longtime dream of the Sunnyside United Dog Society, also known as SUDS, which has been active for 10 years. Rick Duro, the group’s president, said Community Board 2 had approved a dog run at Lou Lodati Park in 2006, although it never came to fruition. Before Van Bramer was elected councilman in 2010, Duro’s group approached him and asked for help, which Van Bramer pledged to do after he was elected.

“The dog run is necessary because our neighborhood has a ridiculous amount of dogs and we have nowhere to bring them,” Duro said.

The project was expanded to include not only a dog run but renovations for the park overall after CB 2 asked for them, Lewandowski said. She said the playground at the park had been redone a few years back. Construction on the project is expected to begin in spring 2012 and open in spring 2013.

“This shows you how when you have a good partner in government the community can really benefit,” said Joseph Conley, chairman of CB 2.

Van Bramer secured $700,000 for the project and Marshall’s office obtained another $700,000.

“It’s going to be a wonderful park ... and I’m going to tell you my daughter is going to be here with her dog,” Marshall said.

Duro, who owns a mixed breed dog named Matilda, said the dog owners use the park more than any other members of the community and steward the park as well. He said he hopes the park will be complete before the last dog, which was an original member of SUDS, passes away.

Over the years the group has been not only a boon for the dogs but for their owners, Duro said, who get to socialize and find someone to watch their dogs when they are away.

“I knew nobody in Sunnyside until I got Matilda,” Duro said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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