By Sarina Trangle
A development company was quick to lap up the leftovers after Joe Abbracciamento Restaurant and Catering served its last course.
Joe Abbracciamento closed March 2 after attracting dignitaries such as President John F. Kennedy and the late U.S. Rep. Geraldine Ferraro while dishing up Italian classics for 65 years.
On March 3, Criterion Group, an Astoria-based development company, submitted plans to the city Department of Buildings seeking to merge 62-96 Woodhaven Blvd. with two lots just north of the former restaurant and construct a 120-unit apartment building on the land.
The seven-story building would come with 47 enclosed parking spaces and 13 outdoor ones, according to paperwork filed with the DOB.
John Abbracciamento, who took over the restaurant his father opened in 1948, said the developers had not yet closed on the property.
Criterion confirmed it was negotiating the sale through Woodhaven Capital LLC, which is registered with the state.
The project would not require zoning variances, according to Eric Benaim, of Modern Spaces, which is handling press for the proposal.
He said the apartments would be rentals, but that the developer was still finalizing renderings so the price range of the units and project cost could not yet be estimated.
Community Board 5 Chairman Vincent Arcuri Jr. said the board would want to study how driveways connect with the apartment building.
“Anything that goes in there will have an effect on the traffic and safety of Woodhaven Boulevard. We’d be concerned where the entrances and exits in that area would be,” Arcuri said.
Criterion is still drafting the traffic plan, according to Benaim.
The company is hoping to utilize the sign that has become a hallmark of Joe Abbracciamento in the building.
“We plan on keeping the sign and having an artist do something to recreate it,” Benaim said. “Maybe it would be incorporated in the lobby.”
But the fate of the orange and beige art deco brick that has characterized the building since it housed a movie theater is less certain.
Benaim said Criterion would not begin considering the façade of the apartments until the interior floor plan had been worked out.
Michael Perlman, chairman of the Rego-Forest Preservation Council, said the group would like to see flourishes from the building’s days as a theater preserved.
Architect Charles Sandblom designed Drake Theatre as the 1939 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows Corona Park approached, according to Perlman. It started screening movies in 1935, just before the Independent Subway System began serving the growing Rego Park population.
Drake closed in the early 1990s, but Perlman said the brick trim remained as smaller stores started moving into the movie theater.
“Where are our elected officials and the [city Landmarks Preservation Commission] on this issue? Must every distinctive site be demolished for condos? What about respect for our architectural and cultural history and character?” Perlman wrote in an e-mail.
Perlman said many mourned the closure of Forest Hills’ Trylon Theater in 2005, particularly because it was built to coincide with the 1939 World’s Fair and some of its historic features disappeared as the building was converted to a synagogue and cultural center for Bukharian Jewish immigrants.
This time Perlman said he hoped Criterion would consider restoring the theater’s façade on the bottom floor and building apartments above it.
“Every loss of a potential landmark is one too many, particularly for Queens,” Perlman wrote.
Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.