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Vacant Little Neck lots cause rumors in nabe

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The large corner property at the intersection of Northern Boulevard and Marathon Parkway in Little Neck used to be home to the area’s major supermarket, but it has sat empty for so long that grass has started to grow through the parking lot pavement.

With the site of the former Grand Union vacant nearly a year after the supermarket chain closed its Little Neck store in October, rumors surrounding the future of the land have started to include neighboring properties. Residents have also been fighting the construction of a large Korean church on Northern Boulevard lot across the street from the Grand Union property.

To fend off the rumors, the International House of Pancakes at 248-16 Northern Blvd., next door to the Grand Union site, posted huge neon signs in its windows this month.

“We are not selling!” the signs read.

Owner Elfie Ripo, who has operated the Little Neck IHOP for nearly 10 years, said she and her partner Marge Lonergan decided to put up the sign because rumors that they had planned to sell their business began to keep customers away.

The speculation began, Ripo said, when the owners of the adjoining residential property decided to sell their land. The public, she said, assumed the IHOP was selling as well.

“Our business went way down,” she said of the time after the rumors started. “No one’s chasing me out of here.”

Ripo said ads in the local newspapers and signs throughout the restaurant urging their customers to come celebrate the eatery’s upcoming 10th anniversary in January helped solve the problem.

The Manhasset realtor who purchased the Grand Union site last year has not returned repeated calls for comment on the status of the property. In the fall of 2000, realtor Fred Colin had told the TimesLedger he would seek another supermarket to fill the space.

Meanwhile, some area residents have begun to speculate about another vacant lot south of Northern Boulevard and across the street from the old Grand Union on Marathon Parkway.

Rumors that a three-story parking garage was to be built on the tiny, grass-covered plot at 45-17 Marathon Parkway were false, architect Philip Augusta said Monday.

“No, no way,” Augusta said of the possibility of a parking garage on the site. Augusta’s Fresh Meadows architecture firm represents owner Frank Briguglio.

In 1999, a representative for Augusta’s firm succeeded in getting Community Board 11’s approval for an application to construct a commercial building on the site. The lot is partially divided between commercial and residential zoning.

The proposed building would include a 12-space parking lot with a gate that would be locked at 10 p.m. and lighting directed away from residences, according to the 1999 application.

Briguglio said Tuesday rumors of a parking garage on the site were definitely false, and he still plans to build a commercial office space.

“We’ll probably get started this year,” he said.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

Posted 7:22 pm, October 10, 2011
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