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Queens Chronicle

Demolition on the menu for Abbracciamento’s

DOB approves a plan to destroy at least a portion of the iconic building

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Posted: Thursday, April 17, 2014 10:30 am

Weeks after the last bottle of wine was uncorked and the final steak was seasoned, the only thing on the menu for the building that housed the recently closed Joe Abbracciamento Restaurant is the wrecking ball.

According to documents filed with and approved by the Department of Buildings last Wednesday, at least part of the building at 62-96 Woodhaven Blvd. containing the famous former Rego Park eatery is set to be demolished.

The destruction of at least a portion of the existing building would start to make way for a proposed seven-story, 114-unit apartment building to be developed by the Astoria-based Criterion Group, the applicant of record on the demolition filing.

The street frontage listed in the demolition application is 83 feet, accounting for about half the length of the building, which also contains a dog grooming business and an optometrist, among other stores.

Eric Benaim, the CEO of the real estate firm Modern Spaces NYC in charge of marketing for the planned apartment building, said he could not offer any more information on the existing structure’s potential demise at this time.

“We’re still in the early stages,” Benaim said.

John Abbracciamento, the owner of both the shuttered restaurant and the entire building the eatery partially occupied, sang the same tune when contacted by the Chronicle on Tuesday.

While he hasn’t completed the sale of the building, Abbracciamento said he isn’t sure of what will become of the site.

“I really can’t tell you anything because I really don’t know, and that’s the truth,” Abbracciamento said. “I really have no knowledge of it.”

Some of the shop owners who maintain businesses in the building Abbracciamento owns also say they had no knowledge of the structure’s potential demolition.

Ilana Shilim and her daughter, Kathy, own and operate A Dog’s Best Friend, a dog grooming business at 62-78 Woodhaven Blvd., just a few storefronts down from the former restaurant.

The elder Shilim claims she wasn’t aware of any potential demolition of the building, and she wasn’t officially notified of its sale by Marie Abbracciamento, John’s wife, until late February, one month after a customer told Shilim of a rumor it was on the market.

“We asked her about the rumors,” Shilim said. “I asked, ‘What should I do?’”

“She said there was nothing concrete yet and they were still in the process of closing on the sale,” Kathy added. “That was our notice, two weeks before they closed.”

Despite the frustration from business owners over the apparent lack of information regarding the building’s future transfer of ownership and potential demolition, Abbracciamento maintains that he is a landlord who treated his tenants well despite the growing costs of owning property in the city.

“If I charged everyone the real cost of rent, they just wouldn’t be here,” he said. “There never should be opposition here. I was very fair.”

He wouldn’t comment on the timing of his tenants being notified of a possible sale.

The Shilims, who have noticed people taking pictures and measurements of the building in recent weeks, said they will be moving their business to 61-29 Woodhaven Blvd., a few blocks down the street, because of the uncertainty surrounding the future of the building.

The DOB did not respond to multiple inquiries for information by press time.

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