Residents back Rego diner, synagogue 1

The futures of the Ohr Natan Synagogue and Tower Diner in Rego Park are tied to a request for zoning changes by developers who want to construct a 15-story apartment building and commercial space on Queens Boulevard.

Michael Perlman of Forest Hills always will have fond memories from the Tower Diner on Queens Boulevard in Rego Park

“I was the first customer in 1993 when I was 11,” he recently told the Chronicle. Jimmy and Anthi Gatanas named their diner at 98-95 Queens Blvd. in Rego Park after the building’s most prominent feature, a clock tower from its days as Emigrant Savings Bank. Their sons, Spiro and John, now own it.

Perlman has been leading the effort to save the diner, as well as the Ohr Natan Synagogue on the same block at 98-81 from being razed to develop a proposed 15-story, mixed-use tower that was to be the subject of a public hearing Wednesday night at the monthly meeting of Community Board 6.

The meeting was set to take place after the Chronicle’s production deadline. The meeting’s agenda stated that the board is scheduled to vote on the Trylon applications on Dec. 8.

Trylon LLC is proposing 162 residential units and commercial space. The developers are seeking changes to the zoning map and an amendment to the zoning text for the property.

Trylon representatives could not be reached for this story prior to deadline, though they have told the Chronicle in the past that Ohr Natan, the diner and the other businesses are as welcome as anyone else to enter into leases for space in the new building.

Perlman and others, who have been unsuccessful in getting the city to landmark the property, say the restaurant and the synagogue — particularly Ohr Natan’s Art Deco facade from its origins as the Trylon Movie Theater — merit preservation.

He submitted just over three pages of testimony on Nov. 3 at the meeting of CB 6’s Land Use Committee that considered the developer’s applications.

Perlman, chairman of the Rego-Forest Preservation Council, is no stranger to such battles. He started a petition to save the structures with more than 3,500 signatures.

“It’s a sad day when a rezoning application and demolition is even being considered of what truly is in spirit ‘community landmarks,’” he said in written testimony.

The New York Post reported that numerous other residents raised objections in the Nov. 3 hearing.

In an interview last week, Perlman said while he would not like to see Ohr Natan, a Bukharian Jewish congregation, to have to go through the difficulties of relocation, it also is an important structure in the history of the borough.

It was built in 1939, with its facade inspired by the 1939-40 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

Even its name came from the fair. The Trylon for which it was named was a towering structure that along with the Perisphere became a symbol of the fair.

The Rego Park building closed as a theater in 1999, and following renovations, reopened as a synagogue in 2006.

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