The Diner Man is at it again. Forest Hills preservationist Michael Perlman has launched a movement to grant the Shalimar Diner a new lease on life.
“I grew up at the Shalimar, knew people who had their first dates there, others made lifelong friends there,” Perlman said. “Patrons always gathered at the counter exchange witty banter with the staff. Many became extended family members. When it went out of business in November many had tears in their eyes.”
Shalimar was in business at 63-68 Austin St. in Rego Park until it and an adjacent parking lot were sold in a $6.5 million all-cash deal with developers and now Perlman, the founder and chairman of the Rego-Forest Preservation Council, is hoping to find a party interested in acquiring the diner for free. Perlman has 30 days to find someone or an organization that would give the diner a new lease on life by moving it to a different location before the wrecking ball arrives. The structure can be had for zero dollars but the interested party would have to pay for the rigging and transport as well as the land at a new location.
“These places are cultural cornerstones of the neighborhood but they’ve become an endangered species. It’s really sad and disheartening how much land costs around here,” Perlman said. “The structure is prefabricated and manufactured to be easy to move.”
In 1974, the Shalimar Diner arrived in Rego Park on a flatbed truck, delivered by the Kullman Dining Car Company. It became one of numerous freestanding Greek family diners dotting the tri-state area that have been disappearing in recent years because of rising operating costs.
“I have possible 30 days so this is a challenge,” Perlman said. “But I’m determined to achieve a diner preservation victory.”
Perlman became known as “The Diner Man” in New York City after he achieved success by sparing other classic diners such as SoHo’s Moondance Diner and Midtown Manhattan’s Cheyenne Diner by brokering deals to have them transported to new locations.
“I became a preservationist in 2005 when a demolition crew took a jackhammer to the art deco ticket booth at the Trylon Theater on Queens Boulevard,” Perlman said. “The Shalimar was another ultimate public institution now facing oblivion.”
Any party interested in receiving the Shalimar Diner for free, and transporting it at cost with the help of a highly successful diner rigger, may contact Perlman at email@example.com.