When the famed Joe Abbracciamento Restaurant at 62-92 Woodhaven Blvd. closed its door on March 2 after six decades, the futures of the six small businesses occupying the same block were left uncertain.
Almost five months later, metal gates and “Closed” signs now serve as placeholders before the building’s pending demolition in the fall.
Despite restaurant owner John Abbracciamento’s repeated claims of having no knowledge of the situation in the weeks after the eatery closed, the entire block, which sits on the Rego Park-Middle Village border, was sold to the Criterion Group in May for $9 million.
One day after the restaurant closed, an application to construct a seven-story, 119-unit apartment building was filed with the Department of Buildings by Criterion.
In April, a demolition application was filed by the Astoria-based development group.
While work permits have not been granted yet because of missing paperwork, according to DOB spokesman Alex Schnell, a Criterion official, who remained anonymous, said Monday the company expects demolition to begin within the next two months, with the completion of the apartment building about two years away.
Roslyn Sofer, the owner of Community Physical Therapy at 62-84 Woodhaven Blvd., said Criterion informed her and the owners of the five other small businesses located next to the former restaurant at the end of May that they had to vacate the building by Aug. 31.
Sofer thanked Criterion for being informative throughout the summer, something she said John Abbracciamento and his wife, Marie, were far from being, but that such a short deadline was detrimental in her finding a suitable, nearby space for her business.
“It was very difficult. If I had a year to find the right space, I probably wouldn’t have moved into that one,” Sofer said of her new 96-14 Metropolitan Ave. address, where she will have to pay a higher rent. “We knew this was coming from rumors. But when the Abbracciamentos came in to collect their rent in April, they said ‘I don’t know.’
“They were not giving up any information,” she added, “and we had no inkling of how long we had left until Criterion came.”
Community Physical Therapy is the only business still in operation on the block.
A Dog’s Best Friend, a family-owned dog grooming shop, moved down the street last week to 61-29 Woodhaven Blvd.
A sign is taped to the window of the Classic Designers salon, informing customers of its move to 84-42 Eliot Ave. The same goes for a former balloon shop, which has moved to 65-56 Fresh Meadow Lane, and a spa, where a sign only mentioning its closure occupies the gate-covered window.
Despite the upheaval of her business from its location of 22 years, Sofer said she still expects it to thrive in the face of monetary setbacks such as a higher monthly rent and unforeseen moving expenses.
“I’m a very optimistic person and I expect to keep thriving in our new place,” she said.