This playground honors George F. Torsney (1896-1942), World War I veteran, New York State Assembly Member, and supporter of parks and playgrounds for the Sunnyside area.
Born in Manhattan in 1896, Torsney attended public school until 1915 when he graduated from the New York Evening High School. To earn extra money he sold newspapers on the corner of 50th Street and Broadway in Manhattan. Torsney joined the Marines during World War I and was promoted to First Sergeant. When he left the Marines in 1919 he began the Torsney & Moloney Trucking Company. Torsney married Katherine Doyle in 1923 and the couple moved to 50th Avenue in Queens in 1926 where they had five children.
Torsney was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1932, a position he retained until his death. As an assemblyman, Torsney fought for reapportionment of the state’s districts when Queens’s swift expansion in 1930’s left the borough inadequately represented. He was Governor Herbert Lehman’s (1878-1963) spokesman and was responsible for raising support for legislation in the Assembly. He was selected for the New York World’s Fair Commission in 1939 and he served as the chairman of the Long Island City Civilian Defense Volunteers Office during World War II. Torsney was a member of the Queens Democratic Executive Committee, the Anoroc Democratic Club, the Blissville Post of the American Legion, the John Vincent Daniels Post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Queensboro Lodge of the Elks, the Liberty Council, and the Knights of Columbus. George F. Torsney died on December 28, 1942, and is buried in Calvary Cemetery.
This site includes the Lou Lodati Playground. Council Members Michael J. Abel, Howard Golden, Foster L. McCaffrey, Jerome X. O’Donovan, John D. Sabini, and Walter Wendell introduced a local law to name the Lou Lodati Playground within Torsney Playground in 1999. Lou Lodati (1908-1996) earned the nickname “Mayor of Sunnyside” for his dedicated service to the community. He worked for the Woodside Herald, and was a member of the Kiwanis, the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, and operated Cassel’s Lounge, where the homeless could receive meals. Lodati died in September of 1996. The Lou Lodati Playground holds play equipment with safety surfacing, a comfort station, swings for tots and kids, benches, and a flagpole with a yardarm.
Torsney Playground is located on the northwest corner of Skillman Avenue and 43rd Street, near the Sunnyside Yard of the Long Island Railroad. The City of New York acquired this site on July 19, 1951, and when the playground was completed it featured handball courts, a softball field, basketball courts, seesaws, a comfort station, a wading pool, play equipment, benches, drinking fountains, a sand box, and a kindergarten apparatus. This playground was named by a local law in 1952. A 1985 reconstruction of the playground provided new play units, floodlights, safety surfacing, Belgian block tree pits, and replaced the wading pool with a spray shower. In 1995, Council Member Walter McCaffrey funded a $678,780 renovation.