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Bellerose AMF lanes slated for May closure

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But that is coming to an end at the end of next month after AMF Bowling Inc. and the landlord settled a lease dispute that will result in the lanes closing for good on May 27, according to Merrell Wreden, vice president of marketing for the company."We wanted to keep the lanes open," said Wreden. "There is a long-term lease that the landlord was going to challenge in court."Wreden said he thought the company could have prevailed had the dispute gone to the courts. But there were only five years left on the lease and it was in the company's best interest to have the landlord buy out the remainder of the lease."We sat down with the landlord and negotiated what we thought would be best for everyone," said Wreden.Richard Hellenbrecht, chairman of Community Board 13, which covers Bellerose, said the closing of the bowling lanes is a major loss to the community."It's the only source of entertainment we have," said Hellenbrecht. "It really hurts to lose it."Hellenbrecht said he has seen plans that include a Staples and Walgreens to be built in the new location, but cautioned that it was only a proposal and nothing was in writing."It sounds like that is the only thing they are pursuing," said Hellenbrecht.He said if those stores were to be built at the location, there would be a number of issues that would have to be resolved, including parking and access to Jamaica Avenue, which he said would require an egress from the eastbound lane and a traffic light.Bowlers who participate in many of the leagues at the center were saddened to hear their beloved lanes would close."Everybody was surprised," said Joe Evangelista, who has been bowling in Bellerose for 30 years. "Everyone is scrambling to see where to go and now we have to travel far away."The closest AMF lanes to Bellerose are in Richmond Hill and Woodside in Queens and Sayville and Commack in Long Island, according to Wreden."We had to speed up our league so we can finish before they go," said Terrence Eaves, who is part of a team in the Department of Sanitation League.An employee at the lanes who did not want to be named said he is not worried about the league members finding a place to go, but he is worried about where the children and seniors will bowl because it is more difficult for them to travel. He said on Friday afternoons it is almost impossible to get a lane after 3 p.m. until closing time because of the youth leagues."Where are all these kids going to go?" asked the employee.Early Tuesday morning the lanes were close to being full with senior leagues bowling their way to bliss for the last few times."I'm sad," said Jean Graham who bowls three times a week with her league mates. "It's something you look forward to," she added before toeing the line and throwing a strike."It's a nice bunch of people having a nice time," said Joseph Wright, who along with his wife Gloria has been coming to the lanes for six years. The couple said the lanes are more than a place to bowl - they are a place to meet with friends and also plan trips to Mohegan Sun Casino and the Belmont Race Track."I'm saddened to see them go," said Gloria Wright.Reach reporter Peter A. Sutters Jr. by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext. 173.

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