When John Sandano learned in September that the owners of Maple Lanes were in contract to sell the property the bowling alley sits on to a developer, he mourned the loss of his “home away from home,” where he’s been a regular bowler for more than 25 years.
“A lot of people are going to miss this place,” said Sandano, 67, of Bensonhurst.
But in his loss, others in the community may find new homes of their own. Plans to replace Maple Lanes with a 112-unit residential development is likely to advance to the next frame.
On December 19, the City Planning Commission held a public hearing on the zoning change requested by the developer, Fairmont Lanes, LLC. Maple Lanes, at 1570 60th Street, near the Borough Park-Bensonhurst border, is in an area currently zoned for manufacturing, not residential use.
Ron Mandel, an attorney representing the developer, said at the hearing that it’s still undecided whether the units would be rentals or condos. The project will cater to young families and the market will determine prices, he said. The developer does not plan to tap into government subsidies designed to promote affordable housing, he added.
Three community members turned out to testify on behalf of the project, citing the need for housing.
The multi-building development, Maple Lanes Views, would bring new residential options to a fast-growing neighborhood. Nearly 60 percent of Borough Park’s population is under 30, according to the 2010 Census, and the predominately Orthodox Jewish neighborhood has one of the city’s highest birth rates. The development proposal includes a synagogue to accommodate observant residents who must live within walking distance of their place of worship.
Young couples in Borough Park also want to live near their parents, said Community Board 12 member Samuel Stober, who described himself as the father of children of “marriageable age.”
“This development will go a long way to alleviate the shortage of available housing in the neighborhood,” he said at the hearing.
In early 2013, the City Planning Commission will review the proposed zoning map amendment and vote to approve, approve with modifications or disapprove the developer’s application. If approved, the City Council will then review the plans, which is the final step in the land use review process.
Community Board 12 voted to approve the zoning map amendment in September. In November, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz recommended approval of the developer’s request, with modifications, after receiving input from the community at an earlier public hearing.
But some community members argue that Maple Lanes, which has been in business for more than 50 years, is a neighborhood asset that should remain open. More than 700 people signed an online petition to save the bowling alley.
Christina Squitieri, who organized the drive, said she was thinking not only of her own childhood memories at Maple, but of current neighborhood kids.
“Especially in this economy, Maple Lanes is a place that still allows most families to get together for a relatively low price and have a great night,” she told Bensonhurst Bean.
John and Peter LaSpina, the owners of Maple Lanes, declined comment. They announced their “gut-wrenching” decision to sell the property in a September letter to customers.
The letter said Maple would not close its doors mid-season and might operate for another season or two before construction is scheduled to begin in 2014. Maple is currently advertising leagues starting in January and February.
Meanwhile, longtime patrons are preparing to say goodbye to their beloved lanes, even as they hold on to a sliver of hope that Maple can be saved.
“It’s like a wait-and-see thing, you know?” Sandano said.
– Susan Armitage