Meetup celebrates saving “Restaurant Row”
by Michael Perlman
Feb 28, 2017 | 3028 views | 0 0 comments | 74 74 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Restaurant Row, a strip of independently owned restaurants on 70th Road between Austin Street and Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills, has been saved from the wrecking ball after a developer abandoned redevelopment plans.

On February 26, over 30 area residents gathered for dinner at Mediterranean restaurant The Grill for the “Saving Restaurant Row Meetup.”

“The preservation of Restaurant Row is extremely important,” said attendee Jeannette Sinibaldi. “We get to know the owners and staff on a regular basis and they become friends we care about.

In addition to the food, Lou Michaels and his wife Marie performed songs “From Bach and The Beatles to Bacharach.”

“We are honored to be a part of this event, and we hope to expand our fan base and bring in revenue for Restaurant Row,” said Lou. “To see fine restaurants close for more development, it would change the aura of the neighborhood.”

In February 2016, a plan surfaced to redevelop much of Restaurant Row for a 12-story mixed-use building adjacent to Lane Tower. The future of The Grill, Cabana Restaurant & Bar, MoCa Asian Bistro, and Bangkok Cuisine was uncertain.

“I was distressed to learn that another major apartment building was being planned, which would bring further traffic and congestion to an already packed block,” said Gloria Piraino. “Along Queens Boulevard we have malls and big-box stores, but here we need to preserve our small-town flavor. It keeps us friendly.”

In response, a petition opposing the project collected 1,995 signatures and residents testified in support of Restaurant Row in front of Community Board 6.

“My first thought was relief followed by happiness, and then I felt really grateful to my neighbors and elected officials who helped the community achieve this victory,” said meetup organizer Michele Dore.

After witnessing the closing of mom-and-pop shops for chain stores, banks, and medical offices, Dore created a Facebook group called Queens NY Businesses and Events, where she helped promote Restaurant Row.

“These are not chain restaurants,” she said. “They are owned and managed by people who invested not only money, but an amazing number of hours, efforts and dreams to make it happen.”

For Oleg Kaz, owning The Grill is a “labor of love.”

“If you ever owned and worked a restaurant in your life you can do anything, since I believe this is one of the most difficult businesses out there,” he said, “However, it is very pleasurable to make people happy with food and service.”

Kaz hopes the block’s current vacant spaces will find tenants.

“Having empty spaces in any neighborhood is very bad for business,” he said. “I really hope that the landlord will divide those large empty spaces to make way for smaller mom-and-pop restaurants.”

For Kim Phelan, a unique aspect of the strip is the personal touch of the restaurants.

“Gone are the days where you would sit on a bus and have a friendly chat with the person next to you,” she said. “There is an invisible shield that prevents you from making that connection, but now we have been blessed to have Michele Dore, who senses the separation in our community and brings us together while helping our small businesses.”
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