2002-10-05 / Letters

Revitalize The Shopping Center

Revitalize The Shopping Center

Dear Editor;

Local residents should be glad to see that the disastrous condition of the Far Rockaway Shopping Center has finally come to the attention of the governor.

We should be careful before we celebrate because of the unusual history of this property. The center was developed by the late Fred Stark in the late 1960's and became an attractive and successful mix of all types of retail stores. After the death of Fred Stark, his daughter Rita refused to rent vacant stores to experienced business people, did not pay real estate taxes and refused to take calls from a community group trying to offer assistance.

I have been making an effort to get appropriate agencies to take effective action to revitalize the center since 1996. Working with the CAT team and with the support of the Bayswater Civic Association, we found that Rita Stark could not be pushed.

Contacts in local development, the Borough President's office and the NYC Department of Finance said they couldn't understand how Stark got away without responding to local businesses, community leaders, paying taxes or maintaining the property.

This year we learned from stories in the Village Voice and the NY Times that Rita Stark gave illegal political contributions to Councilman Sheldon Leffler, a candidate for Borough President. District Attorneys Morgenthau and Brown should check if any other contributions gave Stark undue influence.

Condemnation of property usually involves payment to the owner. I believe if any payment is to be made it should be used for the rehabilitation of the property and as compensation to property owners in Far Rockaway and Bayswater whose own property values have been diminished by the deliberate neglect of the shopping center.

There is no question that this is a viable economic property. The manager of Thriftway says people frequently come to him to ask about the availability of rentals. He has no influence on rentals and can only refer the prospective renters to Rita Stark, who does not respond.

There can be numerous successful plans for renovating the shopping center, but all that is necessary is for a rental agent to accept reasonable offers for rental of vacant property. Public hearings should be held so community residents can be involved in an open discussion of needed merchants.

The announcement of the governor's interest appears timed for the Nov. 5 election. I urge anyone who is considering voting for George Pataki to visit the shopping center on Nov. 4 and see if any progress has been made. As that great Republican campaign manager, John Mitchell, stated, "Don't judge us by what we say, judge us by what we do."

NORMAN SILVERMAN


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