"That's a crime," said Bob Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association. "It's the ultimate insult to go from Niederstein's, which is the oldest restaurant on Long Island, to Arby's. It's almost like a sacrilege."Tom Clarke, who has owned a Fresh Meadows Arby's for three years, will open an outlet next year on the site of the 150-year-old German eatery at 69-16 Metropolitan Ave., a company spokeswoman said. "That particular Arby's is scheduled to open in spring of 2006," Kathy Siefert said in a phone interview from the roast beef giant's headquarters in Fort Lauderdale. She did not know when construction would start or if Clarke planned to raze or restore the restaurant, which closed in February. Clarke did not respond to a request for an interview left on his cell phone Wednesday. Community Board 5 Chairman Vincent Arcuri said he would welcome a restoration like McDonald's did with an historic building in New Hyde Park. A demolition would be a tragedy, he said, and complicated. The franchisee might need a variance to build on the property because Metropolitan Avenue is a mapped road, meaning it is narrower than listed on city records. "If they are talking about demolition and new construction, they'll have to deal with the mapped width of Metropolitan Avenue, which will restrict whatever they can build there," Arcuri said. That might be a good thing, he said, because it would give the community a say in what goes up while the variance permit moves through the approval process.He pleaded with Clarke to reach out to the community board. For weeks Arcuri has been trying to track him down because he said Niederstein's was becoming a blight. Residents have turned the property into a parking lot and vandals have repeatedly spray-painted the building. "We're trying to find out what's happening," Arcuri said. "It's almost a derelict building."It's a sad end to one of the community's most beloved gathering points, said Jack Sheridan, bartender at Zum Stammtisch Restaurant, another German eatery nearby. Since opening in 1850 adjacent to the Lutheran Cemetery, Niederstein's had hosted countless weddings, banquets and funeral gatherings. Regulars dined on wiener schnitzel and sauerbraten and admired the antique fixtures like stained glass windows, wooden doorways and oil paintings. "They were our competition, but it was a good competition," Sheridan said. "It's just very sad. I have nothing against Arby's, but it's not Niederstein's."Reach Matt Monks at news@times
©2005 Community News Group
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