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Queens Chronicle

Biz owner: ‘The fight’s not over yet’

Lefferts Boulevard retail complex in Kew Gardens faces uncertain future

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Posted: Thursday, December 5, 2019 10:30 am

In July 2018, the Long Island Rail Road reversed itself and announced that the Lefferts Boulevard bridge in Kew Gardens would be repaired rather than torn down, saving the businesses on it.

“My customers come back and go, ‘Oh, I’m sure you’re so relieved that everything is taken care of,’” Thyme Natural Market owner Nathalie Reid told the Chronicle Tuesday.

In reality, “the fight’s not over yet,” she said.

Reid, and other owners, have questions about an MTA letter they received in November stating that the LIRR, through the MTA Real Estate Department, is formulating a long-term plan for the Lefferts Boulevard Retail Complex. The LIRR expects to offer the property, as required by law, through a public offering process in 2020.

The lease is set to expire at the end of March 2020. The LIRR’s “expectation” is that following the expiration “you would be allowed to continue and use and occupy the licensed location on a holdover basis for at least three months.”

The biggest issue is that “We don’t know” what it all means, said Pradeep Agarwal, a certified public accountant who owns an accounting business on the street.

Zee N Kay Management LLC was previously managing the buildings from 81-09 through 81-21 Lefferts Blvd. and 81-12 through 81-24 Lefferts Blvd. Rents increased 200 percent when the company took over.

“He charged us like we were sitting in Manhattan,” Agarwal said.

Several stores opposite Thyme Natural Market have closed in recent years, including a supermarket and a jewelry store.

“I want to see people shopping here and want to shop here and not just walk straight past all of our stores because they see empty ones,” Reid said.

She added, “Once it becomes dark, because there’s no stores open over there, it’s pitch black on the other side of the street.”

Agarwal agreed. “You come in the night time, it looks very ugly,” he said.

Longtime neighborhood staple Village Quick News closed down and has been left alone with the gate down for about 10 years, next to Thyme Natural Market.

Now Zee N Kay is out. The LIRR terminated the master license for the buildings and now operates them though managing agent CBRE Property Management, according to MTA spokeswoman Meredith Daniels.

“Together, LIRR and CBRE are developing plans for priority repairs with a focus on winter weather,” she told the Chronicle in an email Wednesday.

Still, Reid is wondering what happens next.

“I feel like for the 10 steps that we took forward, getting the bridge fixed, getting rid of Zee N Kay management and all of this, now I feel like we’re just taking five or six steps backwards,” she said. “We’re right back not knowing what’s going to happen.”

Dominick Pistone, president of the Kew Gardens Civic Association, told the Chronicle there will be a meeting Friday between community members and a representative from the MTA’s real estate division, though Reid said she wasn’t told.

“We don’t quite know what’s going to happen yet,” Pistone said about the businesses.

Pistone said it would be “terrible” if the buildings were torn down but “I have not heard anything that they’re going to close the stores or make the tenants leave.”

In 2017, merchants were told by the MTA that the century-old bridge over the LIRR tracks would have to come down after their collective lease ran out.

A fight to save the bridge ensued, which included several lawmakers in addition to the merchants.

During that time, engineer Phillip Eng became president of the LIRR and was able to get the bridge repaired without putting stores out of business. Pieces of cement had been falling. Reid said a hole found underneath her floorboards was fixed.

The structural issues were taken care of though Reid said stores still have additional concerns, such as worrying about any weather that could cause the pipes to freeze and explode.

“We’re like sitting ducks here right now,” she said.

The stretch of stores are notable in that the popular Kew Gardens Cinema and Dani’s House of Pizza are diagonal from each other but the businesses between them have closed or face uncertain futures.

“It’s a really quiet neighborhood,” Reid said. “It’s not Forest Hills. We don’t have that kind of foot traffic.”

With the lease expiring soon, Reid said, “We’re at the day of reckoning.”

Welcome to the discussion.

1 comment:

  • KGTruth posted at 4:55 pm on Sun, Dec 8, 2019.

    KGTruth Posts: 0

    Rent for Pradeep Agarwal (Accountant) = $2,330 per month

    Rent for Thyme Natural Market = $6,515 per month

    Rents Never Increased by 200 percent. Facts need to be checked

    Does't anyone wonder why these Store Owners keep complaining about the conditions of the buildings and how bad they have it there but then when their leases are up they just don't want to leave? They probably have it Real Good is what the Reality is.

    The Accountant has an store front office. How hard is it for him to move down the block after a 10 year lease is up? He just needs to move his office furniture