Fighting Flak from Newcomers, Parkside McDonald's Edges Out Local Seniors

By Sonja Sharp on February 15, 2013 8:09am 

PROSPECT-LEFFERTS GARDENS — They're not really lovin' it.

"Possibly the worst McDonald's I've ever been to, and I say that after having been to this one a number of times," wrote Yelper Jaime W., expressing a view common to neighborhood newcomers, who almost universally despise the McDonald's at 180 Parkside Ave. just outside Prospect Park's southern entrance.

But while hipsters may hate it, longtime residents adore the restaurant, calling it a haven for for seniors in the absence of a local community center.  

"I've been coming here ever since this McDonald's opened, 25 or 30 years ago," said local resident Ralph Belgrove, 70, a retiree who comes most days to visit with friends, nursing one or two cups of coffee during his four-hour stay. "It's wintertime, we can't go to the park, so we come here and buy a cup of coffee. You sit awhile, buy a second cup of coffee — you relax."

At least, that's how it used to be.

"There's been a lot of changes," said grandmother Kathleen Adams, 67, who often spends a few hours in the McDonald's after dropping her 4-year-old granddaughter off for school.

In July of 2012, about a year after Jaime W. wrote his review, Juan de la Cruz took over management of the McDonald's on Parkside Avenue. He gave the quarter-century-old eatery a much-needed facelift this winter, reopening in January with new staff, a new service system, and a strict new enforcement policy for the chain's 30-minute seating rule.

"We feel that the community deserved a better place to eat," de la Cruz said of the changes. "When we took over, it was 30 minutes. Maybe in the past it was not enforced, but now we’re enforcing it."

While the seniors are pleased with the posh new appearance and snappier service, they say they're afraid to lose their quiet corner.

"We just come here to be with friends," said retiree Earl Duraham, 70. "Since New Year's, they've been more aggressive."

Without the restaurant, they say they'd be trapped at home through the winter.

"You don't want to sit in the house and look at the idiot box all day," Belgrove said. "We ain't got no other place to go."

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