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The former owner of Bayside’s Caffé on the Green said he plans to open a new restaurant and catering hall in Whitestone in the near future. But there is still no date set for the opening of Valentino’s on the Green, the city’s replacement for Caffé, along the Cross Island Parkway.
Joseph Franco, the former concessionaire for Caffé on the Green, said he may have found a spot to operate a new eatery at a site in Whitestone.
“I may have a place picked out already,” Franco said. “I’m definitely coming back and will be in the area.”
Caffé on the Green closed its doors permanently Jan. 1, 2009, after the city Parks Department decided not to renew Franco’s contract as concessionaire. Earlier this year, the city chose Manhattan’s Friendship Restaurant Group to take over operations at the site, which was once the home of silent film star Rudolph Valentino.
Friendship Restaurant Group is made up of several entities, including White Plains restaurant Famous Famiglia.
Valentino’s on the Green is expected to open its doors at the former Caffé site, at 201-10 Cross Island Pkwy. in Bayside, at some point in the spring. The project had been moving along slowly because the new concessionaire had been awaiting permits from several city agencies, such as the city Department of Buildings and the city Public Design Commission.
Both Franco and Eugene Kelty, chairman of Flushing’s Community Board 7, said they believed the city could have saved money had the former concessionaire not been forced out early last year. Caffé on the Green was a popular spot used by politicians and other Queens leaders for community events, such as fund-raisers, as well as the dining public.
“The shame of it all was that I volunteered to stay there,” Franco said. “I could have kept the 88 people who were working there and I would have brought the Parks Department $530,000 last year. But they never even wrote back to me.”
Franco said many of his former employees are still without jobs.
“They still can’t find work a year later,” he said. “They had health insurance, medical and pension plans. Now they have nothing.”
Kelty said he was pleased with plans for Valentino’s, which will include a restaurant on the first floor and a catering hall on the second floor as well as a bar and an upgraded fireplace. But he was upset with the manner in which the Parks Department has handled the transfer of concessionaires.
“They created the issue by throwing the old applicant out and we could have had money through the end of 2009,” he said. “We lost a lot of money and the place is still not open. I don’t like that Parks makes decisions and acts like Pontius Pilate. They couldn’t prove anything. Joe Franco ran a good business.”
Last year, a Parks spokeswoman said the city ended its agreement with Franco following a city investigation of his business. But she would not comment on the nature of the investigation or its findings.
Neither Marily Bitterman, district manager of CB 7 nor Susan Seinfeld, district manager of Community Board 11, said they had been given updated information on the opening date of Valentino’s.
Jerry Iannece, CB 11’s chairman, said Valentino’s restaurant will seat 170 people, while its catering hall will have room for more than 200 people. The building will have an exterior elevator that will provide handicap accessibility.
Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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