On a bone-chilling day, Bellerose residents had ice cream on their mind as they gathered to protest plans to replace a cherished neighborhood landmark with a hotel.
Youngsters held up a homemade sign on Saturday saying “Save our Frozen Cup,” the 58-year-old ice cream stand set to be demolished and replaced by a 45-room Days Inn hotel. Their parents and other adults, numbering around 70, braved the cold temperatures to protest the hotel, which they say is not needed or wanted in the neighborhood.
Elizabeth Mancini, a board member of the Queens Colony Civic Association, collected signatures on a petition to stop construction of the facility. She noted that there are two hotels nearby, between 257th and 249th streets on Jericho Turnpike.
The Frozen Cup, located at 249-05 Jericho Turnpike, closed at the end of the summer and was sold to Harshed Patel. Patel recently completed another hotel, a Quality Inn, that is located a few blocks away. Another hotel, just over the Nassau County border, is located a mile away.
“With two other hotels within seven blocks from this location, we feel there is no need for another facility,” Mancini said. “A hotel in this location would change the demographics of this neighborhood from residential to transient by bringing an influx of people into our suburban area and will bring down the valuation of our homes.”
Patel indicated the last Frozen Cup proprietor who owned the business for about two years, sold the property because he said the ice cream stand was not doing well. But local residents disputed that, saying the owner had irregular hours and did not want to get involved with the community.
Michael Augugliaro, another civic member who is also a board member of the Joint Bellerose Business District Development Corp., said at the rally there is not enough parking for neighbors now and that a hotel would worsen the situation. In addition, he would like to see a different type of business at the location. “We are trying to revitalize the area with new businesses that attract foot traffic,” he said.
Cecilia Vaicels has lived in the neighborhood for 19 years and knew of the ice cream stand before she moved to Bellerose. “I moved here because of the Frozen Cup,” she said. “I don’t see the need for a hotel.”
Vaicels called it a shame that the Frozen Cup closed. “It was a tradition to come there. We even brought the dog and got a small cup for him.”
Although the business offered no seating, protesters pointed to the concrete base of the cup’s sign as the perfect spot for sitting and cooling off in the summer with some ice cream, they said.
Angela Augugliaro, president of the civic association, was unable to attend the rally but recalls taking her children to the ice cream stand on Halloween because the owner gave out free icy treats. “It was a real institution,” she said. “The place was mobbed in the summer and in 2001 was used for a scene in the TV show, ‘Sex and the City.’”
State Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) told the protesters that he is working with the city’s Department of Buildings to learn what the developer can legally build. But the area is zoned C8-1 so Patel can build as of right.
“The last thing this community needs is a short-stay hotel,” Padavan said. “I will do everything I can to prevent it.”
Alan Woodruff, a Bellerose historian, told the audience that the Frozen Cup represents simple family values. “I would like it to stay,” Woodruff said. “A hotel is the wrong type of business.”
He believes the facility would be out of scale with the rest of the community because of its height. Jim Trent, vice president of the business district development corp., previously noted that the Quality Inn is four stories “and is not sitting well with the community.”
Patel did not return calls for this story, but in an October interview told the Chronicle he is willing to work with the community. He indicated that visitors to New York City are happy to stay in Queens, where prices are cheaper than Manhattan. They can take the nearby Long Island Rail Road for transportation.
Patel hopes to start building in January or February and open the hotel a year later.