Dozens of regulars and politicians rallied outside a beloved Queens diner Tuesday to protest its landlord’s plan to replace it with a new apartment development.
“Keep the fight going,” the crowd chanted for over an hour.
Flagship, on Queens Boulevard in Briarwood, has been a community cornerstone for 52 years, loved for its comfort food, friendly staff and welcoming atmosphere. And without intervention of a judge, it might not make it another year before it is torn down.
“This my Cheers,” loyal customer Larry Sherman said.
The diner initially thought it would be able to stay open until its lease expires in 2019. But its landlord, White Rock Management, recently made a list of 14 demands for the diner to complete or else face eviction. The improvements include extensive brick upgrades, parking lot repairs and a new side walk.
Flagship owner Vinnie Pupplo said the diner repaired everything it possibly could, but some of the requests were impossible to meet.
“Those that were easily fixed, we did. The other things I just think are out of the realm of reality,” Pupplo said. “We want to stay here. We want to finish.”
After 2019, if not sooner, White Rock plans to knock the diner down and build a seven-story apartment complex in its place.
“Unfortunately, in New York City we have overwhelming greed for development,” New York State Sen. Tony Avella said.
Customer David Madrick added, "like we really need more buildings around here. It’s insane what’s happening, and they are getting away with it."
According to White Rock, the requests are more about safety and insurance requirements than greed – but Flagship regulars said they don’t buy that argument.
For employees like Linda Barnes who has waited tables at Flagship for 36 years, the diner closing means the loss of her income.
“We really need the job,” Barnes said. “I’ll be so sad to leave this place. It’s like a home for me.”
Next Tuesday, a judge will decide how much longer the diner is allowed to stay open – whether it must close now, or in 2019.