QUEENS — The so called Forest Hills' "Restaurant Row" could soon be demolished in order to make room for a new mixed-use development, a plan that has immediately sparked protests among local residents and business owners.
The new 12-story development is being eyed for a 1-story building at 107-18 70th Road, between Queens Boulevard and Austin Street, which houses several restaurants, including The Grill, Cabana and Moca Asian Cafe. An annual jazz series is also held on that block.
Two restaurants that closed on the block in the past 2 years — Santa Fe and Uno Pizzeria — have since remained vacant.
Currently the developer can build up to seven floors (roughly 70 feet), but according to elected officials they will be seeking a special permit from the city to build higher.
If the developer gets its way, the building — which would feature commercial space on the ground floor and a subterranean garage — would be as tall as the adjacent 120-foot-tall Lane Tower building, at 107-40 Queens Blvd., on the corner of Queens Boulevard and 70th Road, according to local elected officials.
As of Tuesday, the developer had not filed any paperwork with the Department of Buildings, but they are scheduled to discuss the plan with Queen's Community Board 6 Wednesday night, according to Frank Gulluscio, district manager of CB6.
Local residents expressed their concerns on a neighborhood Facebook page and launched an online petition on Change.org against the project, which as of Tuesday afternoon had gathered more than 350 signatures.
“We lose all of our outdoor dining,” the petition read. “70th Road is the only place in Forest Hills where outside dining takes place as it is prohibited by law on Austin Street.”
The petition also claims that the new project would create “unbearable congestion,” especially with a Target scheduled to open around the corner this summer, and that “the aesthetic and historic quality of Forest Hills will be diminished.”
Some local business owners said they were devastated by the plan.
“I invested a lot of money here and it's going to be a big loss for me,” said Oleg Kaz, who opened The Grill on the block about 2 years ago.
Kaz acknowledged that his lease includes a clause giving the landlord the right to break it in case he wants to build a building.
“But he told me they are not going to do anything for many years to come,” Kaz said.
Local Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz also raised concerns about the plans.
“I’m not happy with it, but the zoning allows them to do it and I can’t change the zoning,” she said. “My concern is the infrastructure,” she said referring mostly to schools and transportation.
But Gulluscio said he's not too worried, considering it's just a proposal.
"They can change it," he said of the plan.
He added that the landlord is planning to bring the restaurants back to the building once it's completed.
But Kaz was skeptical. “It's hard to believe,” he said. “Are we supposed to invest again into this property? You have to spend a lot of money to open a restaurant.”
The landlord did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.