By Bill Parry

When the city began moving homeless families into the former Clarion Hotel in East Elmhurst, Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst) said the community would be supportive but “not without added support.”

Last week, the city Parks Department announced a $3.2 million investment to improve green space and the long-neglected Overlook Park two blocks from the shelter, now called The Landing, as well as constructing East Elmhurst’s first dog run directly across Ditmars Boulevard from the facility.

While Ferreras’ office would not speculate on any correlation, state Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubrey (D-Corona) did.

“This will give this area a viable recreation space and augment the quality of life for all,” he said. “It will also provide public recreation space for the children moving into the nearby family shelter. Both older residents and these new families will be well-served by the public space.”

The new dog run will be built in the shadow of the control tower at LaGuardia Airport with $1.5 million in funds. Ferreras said her constituents had been calling for one for years and it proved to be a popular item in the last participatory budgeting cycle, although it did not get enough votes. Smartboards for area schools, lighting on Roosevelt Avenue and police cameras on 102nd Street in Corona were priorities for the community.

“So many residents of East Elmhurst made a home here and have remained for decades despite the noise and air pollution. They really deserve well-kept public spaces near their homes that allow them to enjoy leisurely time with their families and pets outdoors,” Ferreras said. “As a community of many dog lovers, we are also thrilled to have a proper place for our four-legged friends to roam freely and live more active lifestyles.”

Residents currently travel three miles or more to dog friendly areas in Flushing Meadows Corona Park and surrounding neighborhoods, such as Jackson Heights and Elmhurst. The Parks Department will add $1.7 million for renovations to Overlook Park, a steep, wooded promontory with sweeping views of LaGuardia Airport. It is located around the curve of 22nd Drive between 97th and 100th streets, just two blocks away from The Landing. The upgrade will include new play equipment, benches, fences and sidewalks. The park’s 1.3 acres of forest will be pruned and cleared and new greenery will be planted as well.

“Overlook Park and its neighboring public spaces are a green oasis in one of our city’s most highly trafficked areas.” Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver said. “We look forward to making this a better space for the people and pets of East Elmhurst.”

He did not say when work on the two projects would begin.

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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