Residents of Bay Terrace may soon have a convenient new coffee and snack destination.
At the June meeting of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance at the Chabad Center of Northeast Queens last Thursday, representatives from Cord Meyer Development Corp. were there for the first time in over a year to report negotiations with Dunkin’ Donuts to occupy a space on the upper level of the Bay Terrace Shopping Center.
Mary Hughes, vice president of leasing at Cord Meyer, the Forest Hills-based development company that has a more than 60-year history with the shopping center, said to an enthusiastic crowd that if Dunkin’ Donuts were to go ahead and occupy the space, it would move from the current Bay Terrace location at the Gulf gas station on Bell Boulevard between 23rd and 24th avenues. There would be some tables, said Hughes.
Hughes said her company is also in talks with a pet supply store to possibly take over a second available space on the upper level. Residents were also pleased to hear that additionally, only one store — the shoe retailer Steve Madden — is leaving the center, which many at the meeting saw as a good sign of the economy.
Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance, said the shops at Bay Terrace, a 300,000-square-foot complex with a total of 57 retail stores, are “an anchor of our community” that attracts residents to the neighborhood.
Cord Meyer Chief Operating Officer Anthony Colletti also dispelled rumors regarding any upcoming expansions or upgrades to the AMC Loews Bay Terrace 6 movie theater. AMC’s most recent request was for lower rent in order to finance another renovation — possibly to implement the same changes seen at AMC Loews Fresh Meadows 7, which has amenities like reserved seating and leather recliner seats — but Cord Meyer declined.
Residents also voiced concern over continued parking lot confusion at the shopping center, traffic congestion and citing abuse of handicapped parking. “The people don’t follow the flow like they’re supposed to be,” Colletti said. “We would prefer everyone to be safe, and if you don’t feel comfortable coming in there it doesn’t help us, so we want you to be safe. We walk through it too and almost get run over, so I hear you.”
Despite the addition of a parking structure in 2002, which was originally intended for shopping center employees, some residents say most people park as close to the stores as they can anyway. “I walk a lot and some of the ways I walk is through the parking garage, which is a very nice structure but not very well used,” said BTCA Secretary Sylvia Johnson.
Colletti explained, “It’s been a difficult process to get people to park there.”
Schreiber also updated meeting-goers on a much-anticipated project: progress of the Little Bay Park Comfort Station, which is now eight and a half years in the making. In 2004, then-City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) dedicated $1.3 million to construct the bathrooms, which would serve users of Fort Totten Park as well. Schreiber announced the Office of Management and Budget’s most recent cost approvals. The total cost for the comfort station and the parking lot is now $6.6 million. Out of that, total construction costs amounted to over $5 million.
The Queens Parks commissioner still says construction should be on track for the comfort station to open in the fall. The agency issued an update on the Little Bay Park construction on Friday, saying that the water hookup to the building is completed and work to install support columns is underway. There are plans to pour concrete for the footings this week.
Residents also received an update on another planned project: the rehabilitation of the Cross Island Parkway Bridge overpass at 212th Street, which may not get done after all.
In 2004, at the same time Avella secured funds for the comfort station project, then-Rep. Gary Ackerman allocated $4.12 million in federal transportation funds, with $1 million dedicated to reconstructing and expanding the Little Bay parking lot and $3.2 million to rebuild the Cross Island Parkway Bridge overpass.
The rehabilitation was meant to reduce traffic congestion leading into Fort Totten and create a safer merge for oncoming traffic, Schreiber said. Since then, there has been no construction and no apparent use of the money.
“The reason I heard it was delayed was because the Cross Island overpass wasn’t in such bad shape compared to others and that they pushed the project further back,” said BTCA Vice President Phil Konigsberg.
Schreiber met recently with Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) and Congressman Steve Israel (D-Suffolk, Nassau, Queens) and mentioned the $3.2 million that was allocated by Ackerman; Schreiber discovered that this money can in fact expire.
“The good news is the money has not yet been rescinded and the city is trying to figure out how to best spend the money,” Schreiber said. “I was concerned that they were going to take this money and it was going to go into the general city coffers instead of spending it in district.”
Schreiber now has a letter signed by both Israel and Vallone sent to Commissioner of Transportation Polly Trottenberg. “Basically they are urging that this money be spent in this district and particularly in this community and that it not be spent somewhere out of district,” he explained.
But he added that as far as he knows, the bridge work is not being done.
Also at Thursday evening’s meeting was an update from the 109th Precinct on the recently captured suspect in the home invasion that took place at 212-03 15 Ave., in Bay Terrace on April 23.
“As silly as this sounds, the way we got this guy is he had a palm print on the duct tape. That’s how we got him,” Detective Kevin O’Donnell said.
So far in 2014, there have been 103 recorded robberies in the 109th Precinct, compared to 112 at the same time last year.