SUNNYSIDE — It’s barking news for dogs and their owners!
After fighting for more than a decade to get better amenities for their pooches, Sunnyside will be getting its first dog run, featuring areas for both large and small dogs as well as canine drinking fountains.
“Most of the time, we just walk around the streets,” said Joel Solano, 36, a sous chef at a Manhattan restaurant, and owner of a 3-year old beagle named Rocky.
On Thursday afternoon, Solano was sitting with Rocky on a bench next to Torsney Playground, part of Lou Lodati Park, where the dog run construction is about to begin. “It’s really exciting news,” he said adding that sometimes he felt so frustrated that he would get into his car and drive with Rocky all the way to Hunters Point. “They have a nice dog run there.”
The new dog run, which officials broke ground on Friday, is part of the $1.4 million investment that will also upgrade the existing softball, basketball, and volleyball courts at the playground.
Areas for large and small dogs will be divided by planting beds. Each area will contain benches and dog drinking fountains, according to the Parks Department.
Ferid Agi, 46, who works at a picture frame shop in LIC, was very happy about the news. He said in the past, he would take his dog, a pitbull mix named Wilbur, to Doughboy Plaza in Woodside or Sherry Park at Queens Boulevard and 65th Place. “But they are far” and Wilbur has not been very fond of either of them, he said.
A local group, Sunnyside United Dog Society, or SUDS, has been fighting for this amenity for a long time. “This is something that was 11 years in the making,” said SUDS president Rick Duro, a teacher, who owns Matilda, a German Shepard, chow and corgi mixed breed.
SUDS was created spontaneously after 9/11, when some dog owners started to gather at the playground in the evenings. “People were looking for a sense of community and they found it through their dogs,” Duro said, adding that currently he has about 150 members on his mailing list.
Members of the group had started to clean up the park which at that time, Duro said, was full of garbage. Volleyball and soccer matches attracted numerous fans who drank alcohol and urinated in the park, he said.
Over the years, SUDS members have improved the park's condition and spoke about their hopes for a dog run with the local community board and elected officials.
The project is scheduled to be completed by the summer of 2013.