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Owen Dolen needs more

Bronx Times

Sandi Lusk has a dream. Community Board 10 approves her plan. Now all they need is the will and the money to make it happen.

With the June opening of Westchester Square’s Owen Dolen Park after a $5 million makeover, both the board and Lusk, director of the Westchester Square Zerega Improvement Organization, are now calling for renovations to the interior of the Owen Dolen Recreation Center there.

CB 10 overwhelmingly passed a resolution on Thursday, June 20 supporting a plan developed by Lusk called “Phase 2: Owen Dolen Recreation Center Interior Renovation.”

“The building is very old and I think its interior needs to be upgraded in terms of their environmental systems: air-conditioning, heating and plumbing,” said Board 10 district manager Kenneth Kearns. “It also needs to be more handicapped accessible,” he said, adding that a chair lift between the first and second floor should be viewed as a temporary fix.

Lusk’s plan calls for enlarging and renovating an indoor performance space and a possible flat screen t.v. for movie nights, installation of new appliances including a dishwasher, and the addition of storage space in the center’s kitchen for healthy cooking programs, enlargement of an existing fitness room into a state-of-the-art fitness center with shower facilities and lockers, and a computer/technology lab with updated equipment, a complete basement renovation and central air-conditioning.

A Parks Department spokesman said the facility already offers a lot.

“The Owen Dolen Recreation Center offers Zumba and fitness classes, martial arts instruction, board games, arts and crafts, and more,” said the spokesman. “The center is open to all, free of charge, through the end of July with very affordable membership rates. Under an existing second phase of work, approximately $2.1 million is being spent to improve the exterior of the recreation center, including new waterproofing for the building’s roof and re-pointing its facade.”

Parks would support the Community Board’s request for additional funding, he added, “to further improve the interior of the Owen Dolen (Recreation) Center.”

Lusk said the center’s staff is doing a great job with scant resources, but that much of the facility is antiquated, with the last major renovation performed more than 20 years ago.

“All the elected officials have a copy of the proposal, so I am waiting to see what happens,” said Lusk, adding that she hopes to have it added to the FY 2014 CB 10 Capital Budget priority list.

The board also sent a letter to the Parks Dept. notifying them of the vote. Lusk said that since Parks supports the plan, the next step would be soliciting funding from elected officials.

“I know money is very tight,” she said, “but with the investment outside of the building, it makes no sense to leave the inside of the building the way it is...it undercuts the investment.”

Lisa Sorin, executive director of the Westchester Square Business Improvement District , said its leadership believes that anything that could possibly bring more people to the area is a wonderful thing.

“The recreational center has so much potential, and it would benefit the community members, businesses, and visitors to have a state of the art facility located in their backyard,” said Sorin. “We fully support the goals Sandi has put together.”

Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at procchio@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3393

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