For more than five years, the strip of storefronts on Woodhaven Boulevard between 63rd Road and Dana Court in Rego Park has sat nearly vacant, attracting dust instead of customers.
But the block is finally showing signs of life, with one new business owner saying it’s the perfect place to call home.
“Before we even got inside, we knew it would be perfect,” said Razib Hasan, the co-owner of Nur Thai at 65-32 Woodhaven Blvd., in a Monday interview. “We said, ‘Let’s just take this place.’ We love the neighborhood.”
For years, the only business on the block has been Bridie’s Bar & Grill. But Nur Thai’s opening last August has sparked even more interest in the strip, which has space for 10 enterprises.
An Allstate branch opened on the southern corner of the block last year, while D’Rosas Dog Chic — a pet spa and boutique — opened its doors next to the insurance company two week ago.
Next door to Nur Thai, a banner hangs above a storefront advertising the impending arrival of La Gringa Mexican Bar & Grill. Construction workers have been seen going in and out of the location over the last few weeks.
Hasan said California-based block owner High Point Associates is in talks with various businesses to rent out the remaining vacant storefronts, as well.
“We’re bringing friends to look at these spaces too,” he said. “One of them wants to do a dessert shop.”
The first year of the restaurant he owns with his friend, Jashim Ullah, has been a successful one, according to Hasan, with Academy Award-winning actor and Woodhaven native Adrien Brody even stopping by on Valentine’s Day to dine with his girlfriend.
Brody’s parents have since become regulars, the eatery co-owner added.
“Nur is an Arabic word meaning light,” the Ozone Park man resident said. “And what we want is to bring light to this block. We figured once we came, there would be so many other restaurants and that’s what’s exactly happening.”
Opening the eatery wasn’t exactly easy, he noted, saying they had to pay rent while spending an entire year renovating the space prior to opening.
The same happened with D’Rosas Dog Chic owner Ximena Rosas, but the Rego Park resident believes the long, hard weeks and months fixing up the site will be worth it in the end.
“It’s good, definitely not bad,” Rosas said. “I like this location,”
A friend of her husband’s first recommended the location to Rosas, with the Ecuadorian native saying the high amount of traffic along Woodhaven Boulevard and the residential makeup of the neighborhood make it an ideal spot for such a business.
“The buses and the cars, they pass and the people will see it,” she said. “The other day, a guy not from here brought his dogs in here.”
But while one block begins to blossom, the one that houses the former Abbracciamento’s Restaurant a short walk up Woodhaven Boulevard still sits dormant.
Shortly after eatery owner John Abbracciamento closed the restaurant and sold the building — which included a handful of small businesses — for $9 million more than two years ago, plans to demolish the block and build a new apartment building in its place were filed.
However, the site was sold again for $10.85 million in February 2015, just a few months before a permit allowing for the teardown was approved by the city.
The only noticeable action taken since has been the removal of the building’s marquee, which remained after the site’s conversion from a movie theater into a restaurant.
Graffiti has continued to accumulate on the sides of the structure and on the permanently closed window gates.
However, city records show the demolition permit was issued to the owner, 62-98 Realty LLC, on Aug. 23.
A Department of Buildings spokesman said it isn’t unusual for such a long time to elapse between permit approval and demolition beginning.
“Most permits last about a year once they are pulled,” the spokesperson said. “Some developers wait until they are ready to do the work before they actually pull the permit.”