Ozone Park bowlers are facing their final frames this week after an attempt by two bowling lovers to keep balls rolling in the community ended up in the gutter.
AMF, the Virginia-based operator of Americana Lanes, decided to shutter the Rockaway Boulevard alley, which has been open for 42 years, after Sundays games because the facility is not making money, said Merrell Wreden, a company spokesman.
The closure means leagues, camps, schools and recreational bowlers from Ozone Park and Howard Beach will have to take their games to either Woodhaven Lanes in Glendale or Van Wyck Lanes in Richmond Hill.
It stinks, said Kate Anthony, a bowler from the Koffee Klotch ladies league, a Howard Beach group comprised mostly of seniors that was finishing its season last Thursday morning. Well have to go to Woodhaven Lanes, but its further away.
A plan by two Ozone Park residents to keep the lanes open has stalled, at least temporarily. Upon hearing in March of AMFs decision to pull out of Ozone Park, Mike Macchio and Diane Franzem, two longtime Americana Lanes bowlers, banded together in an effort to save the alley, which they say is a community institution.
Macchio, who has run the alleys pro shop for 18 years, and Franzem, who once managed the facility, are in negotiations with the propertys owner to rent the two-story building at 98-18 Rockaway Blvd. when AMF leaves May 26.
But Macchio and Franzem said AMF has insisted upon removing all the equipment that makes Americana a bowling alley. From scoring computers to pins to the wood lanes, the current proprietors will not leave anything behind, they said, which will significantly increase the amount of money needed to keep the facility open.
We tried to purchase a product from them, Macchio said. They didnt want any part of it. They own Van Wyck Lanes and didnt want the competition.
Macchio and Franzem said AMFs position is made worse because the community members denied the chance to bowl are the same people who fought to keep the alley open three years ago when the Board of Education proposed building a school on the site. The board eventually decided to construct MS 137, scheduled to open in September, on a lot behind the bowling alley.
Wreden said he was not familiar with the specifics of AMFs decision to remove the equipment from Americana. Sometimes we take equipment out of one center and put it into another, he said. Other times we may not want to leave equipment for competitive reasons.
Councilman Joe Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), who has examined the propertys lease, said AMF is legally free to act as it pleases; however, he said he hopes it adopts a stance that will not signal the end of a major recreation center in his district.
The lease says whatever is owned by them is theirs, he said. They have every right to pull up every scrap of wood. But were trying to tell them please see it our way for the community.
Whether or not AMF eases its stance, Macchio and Franzem said they plan to press on with plans to keep bowling alive in Ozone Park. They are applying for a Small Business Association loan and said even if no equipment is left behind they hope to reopen the lanes by Labor Day weekend.
Last Thursday, women from St. Helens Church in Howard Beach finished up their 28th league season and expressed hope that someone would act to save the lanes they have called home for 12 years.
We are disgusted. We still want to be here, said league president Regina Cammarata. We have 85-year-old women bowling and they dont want to go traveling all over the world.
Reach reporter Daniel Massey by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.
©2002 Community News Group
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