2006-09-22 / Front Page

Diner Becomes A Bank, But When?

By Brian Magoolaghan

A used car sits in front of what used to be the Sunset Diner's entrance. A new bank is in the works, but it's unclear how soon it will be open for business.A used car sits in front of what used to be the Sunset Diner's entrance. A new bank is in the works, but it's unclear how soon it will be open for business. HSBC Bank has confirmed a rumor that has been circulating in the west end of the peninsula ever since the Sunset Diner was sold: The self-proclaimed "world's local bank" is planning to build a branch on the prime site on Beach 116 Street.

Now the only question is when it will happen.

HSBC's U.S. Media Relations Manager, Stephen Cohen, said last week that a branch is in the works for the diner site. Cohen's announcement came after The Wave placed numerous calls to his office seeking official confirmation on what has been widely rumored throughout Rockaway's west end.

Cohen failed to follow up with more details and a construction schedule.

Rockaway residents and members of the Rockaway Chamber of Commerce have expressed concern over the site, which has been vacant and devoid of any construction activity for more than six months. Up-to-date records on file with the city Department of Buildings show that no demolition or new building permits have been applied for. The last permit issued for the property was for the installation of the diner's kitchen fire suppression system in 2001.

The diner property, located at the north end of Beach 116 Street and accessible from Beach Channel Drive, was sold last November to Wharton Realty, a Manhattan real estate company that handles multi-million dollar property deals. In May, neighbors of the property received a procedural letter from Interior Architects, a Manhattan-based firm, which notified them that work would start soon. "In the near future... construction will commence," the notice stated.

A source close to the project told The Wave in June that demolition was going to take place in July or August to make way for a 1-story, 3,500 square-foot bank branch. Yet the property remains standing today. It's parking lot has become a combination overflow lot for the busy shopping street and a used car lot.

Comparatively, Washington Mutual took over the old North Fork Bank location at 211 Beach 116 Street in June and performed a complete interior remodel with work intensifying in recent weeks. WaMu's Rockaway Park Financial Center opened Monday.

HSBC Bank USA, N.A. has almost 400 branches in New York State, according to its website. It also has branches in Florida, California and one branch each in Delaware, Pennsylvania, Washington, Oregon and Washington, D.C. HSBC also boasts more than 3 million customers worldwide.

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