By Patrick Donachie
Ground was broken in the parking lot of the vacant Mobil gas and service station at the corner of Northern and Bell boulevards this week to excavate gas storage tanks from beneath the recently closed facility. Questions remain as to what will eventually replace the station.
The property, which included a Mobil gas station and a Nor-bell service garage, closed earlier this month. The property was recently bought by Crown Acquisitions, a prominent development firm based in Manhattan, according to a permit filed to the city’s Department of Buildings requesting permission to remove the tanks. Richard Chera, a principal at Crown Acquisitions, is listed as an authorized agent for the site’s owner, and the business address of the owner matches the address for Crown. The application was submitted on March 9 and approved on March 15.
At the site, two Caterpillar construction vehicles sat empty Wednesday while parked over a sizable hole in the station’s lot. The hole was approximately seven feet deep and took up approximately a quarter of the parking lot, from the side of the shuttered building to the area where the gas pumps previously stood.
Upon losing their lease, the station’s managers opened a new location at 172-11 Northern Blvd. at the corner of Utopia Parkway. Jeff Rossi, one of the station’s managers, said that he had been introduced to Crown Acquisitions a few months ago. Rossi said there had been discussions with the property’s landlord about a redesign of the station that could enable them to continue with a new lease. He said the landlord was interested in trying to reconfigure the property to find space for both the station and new retail opportunities, but the station eventually lost its lease.
“It was a long-term lease that was coming to an end,” he said.
Susan Seinfeld, the district manager for Community Board 11, said she did not have further information about the property or the new owners besides the submitted DOB permit. The property is zoned commercial, she said, so regular commercial property could conceivably be built as-of-right. She also said she did not recognize Crown Acquisitions as having made other purchases in the Bayside area.
Representatives from Crown Acquisitions did not respond to queries as of press time.
Lionel Morales, the spokesman for Councilman Paul Vallone, said he had received word from the community about the new activity at the site, but did not know what might be constructed in its place.
“We don’t have any specifics as to what’s going to be built yet,” he said. “We haven’t received any word, but we are going to keep an eye on it.”
Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona