Sept. 14, 2020 By Allie Griffin
A Queens resident launched a petition Sunday to protect a Rego Park synagogue, a diner and a group of small businesses from the wrecking ball.
A developer who owns the triangular lot at 98-81 Queens Blvd. that includes Ohr Natan Synagogue, the Tower Diner and several small businesses wants to knock down the existing buildings to make way for a 16-story mixed-use building.
RJ Capital Holdings, under the name Trylon LLC, filed an application in June to rezone the property in order for it to construct the development that would feature 170 apartments and 118,000 square feet of commercial space. Forest Hills Post was first to report on the application last month.
Michael Conigliaro, who once ran against State Sen. Joseph Addabbo in District 15 as a Republican, launched the petition that calls on city officials to reject the rezoning application.
“This proposal must NOT be permitted, as it would also do immeasurable harm to the surrounding community by destroying historic buildings, removing small businesses with no guarantee of ever reopening, blocking light and air, & increasing traffic and congestion,” Conigliaro wrote in the petition.
The synagogue occupies the building that once was the historic Art Deco-styled Trylon Theater, which opened in 1939 and closed in 1999. It serves a congregation of roughly 1,000 members, mostly residents of Rego Park and Forest Hills.
The Tower Diner is housed in what was once a colonial bank building and still features a tall clock tower.
Nearby residents don’t want the historic buildings to be destroyed for an apartment complex. More than 100 people have signed the petition thus far.
“This is one of the most cultural, social, significant, historical, and architectural sites of the community and is on a list of other local sites that are currently endangered or have already been demolished,” Conigliaro said in the petition. “These sites are unofficial landmarks, which are about to be lost forever.”
RJ Capital Holdings has promised to provide space for the synagogue in the new building it constructs. The developers said they will reach out to additional tenants to see if they would be interested in renting space once the new development is completed as well.
The developers previously told the Queens Post that they aim to break ground in 2022, but the construction timeline is dependent on when the public review process (ULURP) can begin and how the process unfolds.
The developer is waiting on the Dept. of City Planning to certify the project in order for the public review process to take place.
The ULURP process typically takes seven months after the plans are certified by City Planning. The plans — as required by ULURP — will need to be reviewed by Community Board 6 and the Queens Borough President, and then be approved by the City Planning Commission and City Council.
Residents can weigh in on the proposal at public hearings during the review process and the City Council has the ultimate power to reject the application.