2008-03-07 / Front Page

Lawrence Hotel For Sale...Again

By Nicholas Briano

Dilapidated, abandoned and all wrapped up to keep it from falling apart, the Lawrence Hotel on Beach 116 Street is once again for sale, this time for an asking price of a whopping $3 million.

Wrapped up last year by the city because of falling debris, the Lawrence Hotel is selling for $3 million. Wrapped up last year by the city because of falling debris, the Lawrence Hotel is selling for $3 million. The once-welfare hotel is being sold by the Brooklyn firm, Bergen Basin Realty, at a pricey $500 per square foot.

The 6,000-square-foot lot has been an Achilles heel on the shopping street for many years, considered by many an eyesore and a danger. Most recently, until pieces of the façade began falling into the street, the old summer hotel was home to hundreds of pigeons.

At the height of Rockaway's prosperity, the hotel was a mecca for summer visitors and a desirable place to stay for the season.

It began to fall into disrepair, however, as did many of the peninsula's summer facilities. In the 1950's, the Lawrence Hotel was turned into a hotel housing welfare recipients, a situation that many locals considered a danger to the community.

It became the home to drug dealers and families with no resources. Panhandlers who lived at the hotel often annoyed and threatened shoppers on the street.

After many community protests, the city closed the hotel in the 1980's. The building has continued to deteriorate.

The realty company, hoping to sell the structure, is operating under the assumption that the city will soon rezone the area to allow for eight-story buildings.

Under that zoning proposal, meant to encourage commercial development, developers will be able to build up to 80 feet high on the present site of the Lawrence Hotel.

There's been no time frame given, however, for when, or if, the proposed zoning regulations will be approved.

Community Board 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska says Rockaway is still waiting for the final zoning plans.

"We don't really know when City Planning is going to send us over the application for certification," Gaska said. "Hopefully this spring, but we really don't know definitely."

Therefore, according to Bergen Basin Realty, the 6,000-square-foot property could be transformed into a 24,000 square foot lot, if the zoning proposal is enacted.

The city says that the new zoning will bring much-needed commercial development to the area. Many locals, however, think the plan would result in a building that would be too dense for a beachfront area.

Gaska says that you can forget about the idea of a "big box" chain store at the Lawrence Hotel site. He contends that a big box chain will need at least a 100,000 square foot lot in order to support the store and ample parking for customers, something that can be done only if other Beach 116 Street properties are added to the deal.

A developer trying to put together a deal for the entire southeast end of the beach block was reportedly stymied two years ago by his inability to get other property owners involved in the deal.

"The community wants big box stores in Rockaway, but it will never happen along Beach 116 Street," Gaska said. "If one thing is clear though, the biggest complaint I have seen in my 20 years here are the SRO hotels along Beach 116 Street."

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