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Queens Chronicle

Gridlocked Cross Bay jamming diner

Esquire is on the brink while 50-year resident corroborates SBS trouble

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Posted: Thursday, November 15, 2018 10:30 am

Jimmy Athanasopoulos is the owner of the Esquire Diner and Restaurant located at 105-45 Cross Bay Blvd.

But that job title is being threatened by what he says has been a recent decimation of his profits that he attributes to the bus lane cutting through the boulevard nearby his Ozone Park establishment.

“It took 10 percent of my business away,” Athanasopoulos said on the phone. “It’s a disaster.”

Walk-up customers provide the lion’s share of his profit but Athanasopoulos noted that, “my delivery guy can’t make deliveries on Cross Bay,” due to the lane and Select Bus Service.

His issue with the bus lane has to do with accessibility. Before the bus lane, a left turn used to be easily available for customers one block away on Rockaway Boulevard in front of P.C. Richards. Now he says the lane is forcing his Howard Beach customers into an inconvenient decision. Either they take a circuitous route around Rockaway Boulevard back onto Cross Bay or drive farther down to Jamaica Avenue which is the first left available on a linear track away from Esquire Diner.

Whichever they choose, Athanasopoulos says that his customers’ having to make these decisions with increased traffic gridlock has represented too large an impediment to overcome. He says people now are simply staying away, especially those he called “the old-timers” to whom he had always tried to “give a break.”

Although most of his ire was directed toward the bus lane, Athanasopoulos echoed Angelo Gurino, the long-time former owner of Ragtime in Howard Beach in last week’s issue when he said the impending minimum wage raise would make profitability even more difficult to attain.

“They raised the minimum wage to get the government off their back,” Athanasopoulos said, outlining his perspective as a proprietor. “The solution is not to keep raising the prices. We’re being forced to raise prices to make ends meet.”

He also suggested that he simply can’t accept the idea of a $10 cheeseburger. That is a major reason why he’s considering selling Esquire. He doesn’t want inflated prices on his menu. And he worries that he’ll soon have to reduce his staff in order to keep the doors open. The diner’s menu says the establishment is open 24/7. But as of right now, that is not the case.

“Five days a week I shut down at 11 to make money,” Athanasopoulos said. Staying open overnight has become too difficult with earnings down during the day and evening.

“Everyone’s crying on the boulevard,” he concluded.

In that thought he echoed other voices who have spoken out about the bus lane. In a Chronicle story from Nov. 2017, Rose, a manager at C Town, said a lack of parking was driving down business at the supermarket, while Roselle at A&J Stitching expressed concern over customers coming into the shop angry. Their parking had been inconvenienced by SBS and its dedicated lanes.

The Department of Transportation declined to comment for this story.

“At least I have a parking lot,” Athanasopoulos said. But that lost turn has burned him anyway.

Sebastian Mossa is a retired insurance lawyer still working on a couple cases at the firm he ran with his sons on Cross Bay.

He reached out to discuss bus lane-related congestion issues as a long-time resident weary with the lack of solutions being implemented by the city.

“The mayor stopped the business people from doing business around here from 7 to 10 in the morning and 4 to 7 at night,” he said.

Mossa said these establishments applying a tourniquet to the bus lane related bleed is simply impossible with the present regulations.

“You can’t do business between 10 o’clock in the morning and 4 o’clock. You’ve got to do business all day long,” he said, adding, “and not only do you have to do business all day long, you can’t do business when customers can’t get to the store and park. We’ve had a parking problem in this neighborhood for years. I’ve been here in this area for 50.”

Mossa had empathy for business owners who were being forced into the exact predictament that Athanasopoulos had described: Either raise prices, cut staff, or do both without any guarantee these decisions will stem the damage.

“Twelve to 14 hours-a-day they work their [butts] off,” Mossa said. “When you let people go the owner doesn’t let himself go, he lets his help go,” he continued. “I don’t know the exact percentages, but [ballpark] 80 percent or more of these places are owned by people who work every day. Seven-day-a-week operation.”

Mossa was asked whether it was the lane itself causing the issues, or the number of buses being run through the boulevard.

“Yes,” he said, clarifying that both of these reasons were true. “What I want to know is how we get five pounds of s--t for a three pound bag? At 3:30 in the afternoon you have the regular buses, and you have the extended buses which is really against common sense, because the extended buses really don’t help. It takes more passengers but causes more traffic problems. Always has.”

Mossa also said the logjam begins at 2:30 with the procession of yellow school buses trying to get through the boulevard. These also share space with regular and Access-A-Ride buses. With all these large vehicles occupying the boulevard, along with standard traffic, the bus lane becomes a conduit for gridlock.

“The increase of cars and decrease in lanes is not a good formula,” said state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) on the phone. “I’ve seen the machinations that Cross Bay has gone through over the years,” he continued, while adding that, “work with the DOT is ongoing.”

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  • pvrjr posted at 5:51 pm on Fri, Nov 16, 2018.

    pvrjr Posts: 315

    Select Bus Service is Select BS. [sad]

  • Eugene posted at 3:14 pm on Thu, Nov 15, 2018.

    Eugene Posts: 46

    These people just have a bad attitude.

    Everyone knows that cars are evil and mass transit is the way to go.

    That is why they instituted Select Bus [non]Service instead of QueensRail. QueensRail would not have affected cars and parking, but DOT will implement any policy that makes driving more difficult, so they chose SBS over QueensRail.

    I have a suggestion. Grand Juries have the right to investigate anything that they wish, even if the District Attorney is unhappy. Let the Queens County Grand Jury send the DA out of the room and investigatie DOT. Ask Eric Beaton why hsi city planners are designing traffic engineering projects (a felony). Indict him and the commissioner. Replace her with n engineer instead of a politician.