Boro Park residents: housing is needed at Maple Lanes site

January 8, 2013 Denise Romano
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The City Planning Commission heard testimony regarding the demolition of Maple Lanes and its replacement with a new complex combining apartments and a synagogue during a December 19 hearing, which was dominated by Boro Park residents who said they were in favor of demolishing the alley to make room for housing.

The hearing was a stage in ULURP (Uniform Land Use Reform Procedure), which is required by law when zoning is changed on a piece of city property. Prior hearings were held at the local level (at Community Board 12) and by the borough president.

Ron Mandel testified on behalf of Fairmont Lanes, the developer who purchased the property from the La Spina family, which owns the site.

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Mandel said that the bowling alley would be converted into mixed use residential housing, plus a house of worship, with five four-story townhouses on 60th Street, six on 16th Avenue and 14 on 61st Street. He said it is not clear if the units will be for sale or rent; it “depends on market conditions for the next few years.”

Mandel said that no subsidies were in place currently for affordable housing. He referred to the alley – which has been part of the community for over 50 years – by the wrong name.

“It’s sad when an institution like Fairmont Lanes is lost,” he testified.

Three Boro Park residents testified in favor of “much needed” housing.

Samuel Stober, a member of Community Board 12 and a parent of children at “marriage age,” said, “Lots of young people are getting married in the neighborhood and housing is scarce. Children like to live next to parents,” he explained. “This will go a long way to alleviate the shortage of housing in the neighborhood.”

Nathan Weinberger read a letter from Assemblymember Dov Hikind. “I believe that the proposed zoning district is appropriate and would facilitate development of a project that meets the housing needs of the community,” he said.

But Bensonhurst residents are singing a very different tune.

Christina Squitieri organized a Save Maple Lanes petition, which has collected over 700 signatures. She said that while she understands the need for additional housing, there are other locations besides her beloved bowling alley to build.

“I’m not saying we shouldn’t build more homes, but we could choose where to build more wisely. The housing is going to benefit about 100 families, but it will take away something very important and special for most of Brooklyn, especially the neighborhood children in bowling leagues who would have nowhere else to go if Maple Lanes closed,” Squitieri explained.

“The residents of Boro Park use the bowling alley just as much as the rest of Brooklyn and one of the best parts of Maple Lanes is that it is a place that attracts diverse groups of people…and gives everyone a place to have a good time for a reasonable price,” she added.

After a public hearing at Borough Hall on September 27, which Squitieri attended, Borough President Marty Markowitz said he supported the rezoning and offered recommendations.

They include: that Fairmont look into building a new bowling alley in the nearby vicinity and/or that the Department of Transportation change parking rules to angled parking along Shell Road near Shell Lanes to ease congestion and free up spots; that Fairmont and the La Spinas provide a “binding commitment” to make sure Maple Lanes remains in operation until a permit is issued for construction; and that a commitment is made to make a portion of the housing affordable to those with moderate and middle income.

CPC will vote on the issue at its January 23 meeting. Following that, the issue will be taken up by the City Council.

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