2010-07-23 / Top Stories

Sanders Meets With Stark On Shopping Center Future

By Miriam Rosenberg

In what many see as the beginning of a long overdue step forward, Councilman James Sanders Jr. met with Rita Stark, the owner of the Thriftway Shopping Center located in downtown Far Rockaway.

The news was first made public when Sanders’ summer newsletter began appearing in constituents’ mailboxes last week.

According to the newsletter, the faceto face meeting between the councilman and Stark was a first, considering that, for more than 30 years, she had never met with any elected officials. The newsletter goes on to say that the two discussed ways to “turn [the] deplorable Thriftway Mall into the shopping mecca it once was.”

Jonathan Gaska, the district manager for Community Board 14, was just as surprised as everyone else to hear of the meeting. While he knew Sanders was working with Stark’s representatives, Gaska said, “I didn’t know he was dealing directly with her.”

Gaska told The Wave that the CB 14 has tried many times to reach Stark.

“We’ve called but they never returned our calls,” he said. “I’m glad she’s talking to somebody.”

The Far Rockaway Shopping Center fell into decline when Stark’s father, Fred Stark – who developed the site more than 40 years ago – died in 1988. The shopping center was the center of a fight between Stark and her brother over their father’s assets. The lawsuit was eventually dismissed, but the shopping center’s slide continued.

In 2006, Shopco Advisory Group was hired to help Stark revitalize the shopping center. Since then different plans had been drawn up and presented to the borough president’s office, as well as the community. This past December minor work of putting in handicapped parking spaces was done at the site, but negotiations still continued for, what The Wave was told at the time, was $16 million in renovations.

Concerning what the project would cost Gaska said, “They’re looking for [financial] help from the city. I know the councilman was involved in trying to get it going.”

He added, “My understanding is they want to do the right thing.”

Gaska did give a little insight into a possible reason for the delays.

“One problem was she [Stark] was really ill and in the past year she has gotten better,” Gaska said.

The Wave attempted several times to ask Sanders specific details of what was discussed with Stark, but we were told he was unavailable to discuss the meeting.

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