The Mattone Group purchased the 100,000-square-foot lot from the city in the early 2000s, and originally planned to develop a movie theater on the site. However, it stayed empty for years until this past August when construction began on the three chain restaurants.
The city’s Economic Development Corporation took the Mattone Group to court for failing to utilize the property as agreed upon in 2001, and the two parties reached a $3 million settlement in February to change the deed and house the three restaurants instead.
Councilman Daniel Dromm said he was shocked to learn in August that the Mattone Group changed the deed of purpose from a movie theater to restaurants, something he says is not needed in the community.
In addition to creating more traffic on 59th Ave., the larger issue is there was no communication between the Mattone Group and the public, the councilman said.“I think the people have a right to know what’s going on there,” Dromm said.
The councilman said he heard that the restaurants may require paid parking and the Department of Transportation will not conduct a traffic study until the construction is complete. Dromm said will be meeting with representatives from the Mattone Group soon.
“I don’t know what to say,” he said. “I’m almost at a loss for words.”
Community Board 4 district manager Christian Cassagnol is also opposed to the plan. Having new businesses is great, he said, but with two malls right there it’s a “bit too much.”
Cassagnol says the restaurants won't just affect traffic on 59th Avenue, but also Junction Boulevard and the Horace Harding Expressway.
“It will change the traffic pattern entirely,” he said.
But Roman Schaarou, who owns a barbershop across the street, said the restaurants will be a good thing for the community. The traffic and parking are always bad, so this really won’t make a difference, he said.
“A lot of people go to the mall and they want to eat good food after,” he said.