Residents to Markowitz: Save Maple Lanes!

October 4, 2012 Denise Romano
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Dozens of residents testified at a public hearing at Brooklyn Borough Hall on Thursday, September 27, urging Borough President Marty Markowitz not to approve the zoning changes that would allow developers to convert the site where Maple Lanes now stands into housing.

Attorney Howard Weiss, who represents the developer, Fairmont Lanes, testified that he wished to change the zoning at the lot where the 51-year-old bowling alley sits – at 60th Street and 15th Avenue – from light manufacturing to a residential zone which would allow 250,000 square feet of housing on the site. Weiss said there would be 25 separate buildings with four apartments each, totaling 112 units, with 50 parking spaces located underground below the rail yard towards the center of the block. There would also be a synagogue at the corner.

Community Board 12 has already approved the zoning change.

“This has been five years in the making,” Weiss said.

Markowitz, who presided over the hearing, did not announce his decision but said that he did share fond memories of bowling. “Why not try to replace the alley under the garage or somewhere on the site to show the community some respect?” he asked.

Markowitz also suggested that the developer find some room for the bowling alley at a site nearby.

“The present owner of the site is the operator of the alley,” Weiss explained. “It’s not viable, but we could have a discussion.”

Bensonhurst native Ronald Palastro said he lives and works in the neighborhood and basically “grew up” in Maple Lanes. “Every race, creed and color enjoys the alley. It’s a melting pot and it’s what New York is all about,” he testified. “It would be criminal for the alley to be demolished and housing to go up.”

Christina Squitieri, who started an online petition to save the alley, also testified. “I am not asking you to keep it for nostalgia. It’s an affordable place for families,” she contended, adding that the petition has collected 609 signatures in just a couple of weeks. “The closest alley is three miles away. Please if you can, save our bowling leagues.”

Steven Varrone is a Bensonhurst resident and an architect. He said that Maple Lanes was a “second home” for him growing up. “The community can’t just be an endless stream of market rate neighborhood housing,” he contended. “There must be a place for people to mingle. It’s irreplaceable.”

Josephine Colon, who has lived in Bensonhurst since 1975, contended, “I understand money talks, but sometimes it helps to help people. Don’t take Maple Lanes away from us,” she said.

Two residents suggested building the housing at one of the many abandoned sites in Borough Park and Bensonhurst. “We definitely need housing but at the same time there are other places to build,” contended Paul Polombo.

Markowitz has 30 days to submit his recommendation to the City Planning Commission, which will hold a hearing on the matter as well, as part of ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure), a legally mandated review process that all zoning changes must undergo. “Everything you said is absolutely true,” he said. “I am hoping that perhaps something can come out of this hearing.”

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