As news of the impending demise of Mark Lanes has spread, so has an incipient effort to attempt to halt the bowling alleys closure. At the January meeting of Community Board 10, which was held in St. Anselms Meletia Hall, 83rd Street and Fourth Avenue, area resident Richard Baron a bowler at the lanes spoke out in opposition to the alleys demise. The site of the alley, 423 88th Street, has been targeted by Century 21 Department Store for a three-level parking garage that would also contain a floor of selling space. A lot of people dont know the impact that the destruction of the bowling alley will have, contended Baron, who held up a bowling plaque for all those present at the meeting to see. Some of us have been bowling there for 25 years. My major concern is people, Baron stressed. There are high schools that bowl there, kids that bowl there. The Guild (for Exceptional Children) will be displaced. They bowl there. Its like a family to them, as well. We have people who come from as far as New Jersey to bowl because they used to live here. We have people from Staten Island who come. Why? Its family. Anger, Shock, Disbelief Baron is not alone. Bowler Thomas Brice who said he felt anger, shock and disbelief on learning that the lanes days were numbered has started a petition drive on the Internet, at www. petitiononline.com/rush06. It had already been signed by upwards of 200 people, as of this writing. Comments on the petition range from, There are really becoming less and less safe places, to I love that place. Dont let them close it, to This is our bowling alley!! We have nowhere else to bowl. Bay Ridge dies a lil bit more, wrote one signer. First the movie theaters are shut down, now our bowling alley is going to be shut down. Teens are going to have no where to go and hang out! another complained. There is plenty of empty space that Century 21 can take up without taking away a major recreational landmark of Bay Ridge, another signer opined. If the alley closes, said Brice, my leisure time will not be what it used to be. I may never bowl again. If you look at Brooklyn, there are less and less bowling alleys. The movie theaters are going. The developers are taking over Brooklyn, and they dont care for the community. They only care for a buck. Alley Management Speaks Its not only the bowlers who are distraught. The owners of the bowling alley, clearly hardly pleased with the situation, have been distributing a letter from manager Jennifer Beshara to Mark Lanes Bowlers in which she contended that Century 21 has been trying to get rid of the bowling alley. The Beshara family owns Mark Lanes Bowling Center, she wrote, but unfortunately we do not own the property which it is on. I wish we did! Century 21, Beshara contended, Monopolize(s) the entire area, and if they dont want you, they make it known. They force you to leave. That is what they are attempting to do to us. They have been trying to get us out for the past six years. I keep on fighting it. I dont want it to happen. I have prolonged it his far. But, unfortunately, it looks like I might have lost this battle. While one might expect hard feelings on the part of the bowling alley management, they are not the only ones in the area who appear to resent Century 21s expansion. Resident Speaks Out Century 21, I believe, is usurping 86th Street, our main street, U.S.A., contended area resident Wade Goria during the community board meeting. Rather than serving as a main street of the community, 86th Street has become a magnet for consumers from all over the city who do not count themselves as members of our community and, therefore, do not respect it. In the process, corporate profit is cannibalizing our civic pride, Goria went on. Although many of us are delighted that Century 21 is offering to build a new parking garage, we must look to the larger picture and remain objective in order to preserve our future. There has been insufficient discussion regarding Century 21s clear and determined effort to expand its store even further. The price we are being asked to pay is the destruction of the only remaining bowling alley in Bay Ridge. Is anyone familiar with any other substantial indoor recreational facility in our community? Ultimately, contended Goria, as it expands, The winner will be Century 21, a vast economic enterprise that does not have the interests of Bay Ridge at its heart. The loser will be you, your children and your childrens children, who will not enjoy the Bay Ridge we once knew. For the Defense However, contacted for comment, Century 21 Executive Vice President Jeff Jasner had a very different take on the issue. He said that the store has had nothing to do with shutting down Mark Lanes. While the department store, Jasner acknowledged, is under contract to purchase the building, Regardless of what goes there, the lease with the bowling alley is over, he stressed. Whoever bought it and is selling it to us has already come up with a plan between them and the bowling alley that the lease for the bowling alley will be expiring. Jasner fiercely defended Century 21s reputation as a member of the Bay Ridge community. The store, he pointed out, Is the largest contributor to the 86th Street Business Improvement District, an organization formed by merchants and property owners who have agreed to assess themselves, with smaller properties contributing a smaller amount of money and larger properties contributing a larger amount of money, to provide a wide range of supplementary services and enhancements to the shopping area. Theres not another company that contributes the amount of money that Century 21 does for development on 86th Street, Jasner contended. My perspective here, he went on, is that its not like were building a Wal-Mart or a Target. The property could have been leased out to another restaurant. What the community needs is a parking lot. I would think the community would say, Here is one more way Century 21 is working with the community, is giving Bay Ridge what it needs. Just a Conversation While Jasner lauded the concept of providing parking, he also said that the concept of building a parking garage on the site of the bowling alley was purely conversation at this point. Nonetheless, it was sufficiently serious conversation to have been the subject of a meeting, in December, held by Community Board 10. At that time, board members had been treated to a view of architects plans for the structure, which would require a zoning change in order to accommodate approximately 280 cars. Without the change in zoning, the capacity of the garage would be halved. Century 21 had brought the possibility to the board late last year, representatives had explained at the time, to gauge the boards response to the proposal before formally instituting the city approval process.
©2006 Community News Group
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