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Nightlife and Restaurants Are a Bust in Booming Rego Park

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | October 7, 2014 7:19am

QUEENS — When Iwona Rozalewicz, 37, and her husband bought a two-bedroom co-op in Rego Park in July, they thought it was a great bargain.

They paid about $300,000, much less than they would have to spend for a similar co-op in Sunnyside, where they lived, she said.

But what they found is that while the neighborhood features a number of shopping centers and restaurants, and the nearby subway station and the Long Island Expressway made for an easy commute, there were few places to hang out in the area.

As a number of buildings with “Manhattan-style” amenities have started to pop up between decades-old red brick apartment buildings in recent years, the dearth of eateries and nightlife in the area is coming into focus.

“There is no place to even grab a beer,” said Rozalewicz, who works for a Manhattan-based marketing company. “So whenever we want to go out, we just go to Sunnyside or Williamsburg.”

A slew of fast-food restaurants, from Subway to Dunkin' Donuts, dot Queens Boulevard and 63rd Drive.

The restaurant mix also includes longtime popular establishments, such as the famous Best Ben's deli, which opened about 70 years ago, Cheburechnaya, catering mostly to the Bukharian Jewish community and serving delicacies from Uzbekistan or Tajikistan, and the renowned seafood restaurant London Lennie's on Woodhaven Boulevard.

But younger residents say that the neighborhood is lacking gastropubs, coffee shops or clubs featuring live music and outdoor seating in the summertime.

Currently Tropix, a bar that opened on Queens Boulevard about 10 years ago, is one of only a few places where locals can have drinks in the neighborhood.

“I feel like Rego Park ... is the kind of neighborhood that is more suitable for people who are just starting off a family or people who are in their mid 50s or who are senior citizens,” said Steven Feldman, 24, a student at Hofstra University, who lives in Rego Park.

He said that when he and his friends want to go out, they usually head to Astoria, Manhattan or Brooklyn.

Feldman said that among the venues he would like to see in the neighborhood, are lounges and pubs similar to Forest Hills Station House, as well as a bowling alley.

But he said he worried that new spots could face opposition from older members of the community, because, "the kinds of people that make up the neighborhood don’t like us," he said referring to younger residents.

Peter Beadle, 43, a Rego Park resident and a member of Community Board 6, said that the neighborhood, which has "a lot of 99 Cents shops ... could definitely benefit from a bit better mix of stores."

He would like to see venues that offer live music and coffee shops or bakeries, similar to Martha’s Country Bakery in Forest Hills.

New spots, Beadle said, "would help make the neighborhood more vibrant and give us a place to hang out so that we can stay in the community and spend our money in the community."

He said he hopes that new developments will help “spur those kind of businesses in the neighborhood.”

Frank Gulluscio, district manager of CB6, which covers Rego Park and Forest Hills, said the area, especially along 63rd Drive, is “a prime location for some of the things that [younger residents] might be looking for.”

“It could be Martha’s Bakery, it could be a cupcake store, it could be an upscale wine and cheese place,” he said. “Somebody has to start it, like they did in Williamsburg and Red Hook.”

But some residents worried that the neighborhood is developing too quickly.

The influx of new residents, she said, may for example lead to more overcrowding at local schools.

“A bigger concern for me is about what that means for our infrastructure,” said Yvonne Shortt, a local activist and the founder of the Rego Park Green Alliance.