The former Shalimar Diner in Rego Park is now but a memory.
The iconic Rego Park eatery, which served the community for 45 years, was destroyed by its new property owner Wednesday as the efforts of two men who grew up in Forest Hills and hoped to move the diner to another location fell through.
Photos of the demolished diner, reduced to rubble behind a green, plywood construction fence, circulated across local Facebook groups on the afternoon of July 10.
In April, preservasionist Michael Perlman started looking for an ally that could save the diner and transport it to a new location. Perlman enlisted real estate attorney and entrepreneur Ronald Hariri who wanted to transport the structure to a parcel of land Hariri owns in the Suffolk County hamlet of Aquebogue.
Former Mets outfielder Lenny Dykstra would round out the team helping to market the Shalimar as a brewery and diner.
“We tried but the diner would not fit in with the zoning on my property in Riverhead,” Harriri said. “We feel terrible but they have restrictive zoning with certain architectural requirements that prohibited this type of structure. I had my architect look into it and it was determined that if we went for a zoning variance it could have taken years.”
For Hariri, who grew up in the neighborhood and graduated from Forest Hills High School, his attempt to save the diner was personal.
“I spent a lot of time at the Shalimar Diner when I was growing up,” Hariri said. “We had the people lined up, we just couldn’t save it.”
Ten days before the Shalimar Diner closed for good in November 2018, three holding companies closed on a $6.55 million cash deal for the property at 63-38 Austin St. and the adjacent parking lot.
The commercial developer is listed as 63-38 Austin LLC, which could not be reached for comment.
The city Department of Buildings said there have been no applications filed for a new building at the property but the developer has begun demolition. The lot is currently zoned R4 with a C2 overlay, meaning that a one-story retail building, or a mixed-use building with stores on the first floor, can be built as of right, among other possibilities.
“I spoke to the new owner just a couple of weeks ago,” Hariri said without divulging the owner’s name. “He’s got his plans and at some point you’ve just got to move on and that’s apparently what he did. We’re very disappointed.”
Hariri added, “We’ll try for the next one.”
Before the wrecking ball hit Wednesday, Perlman remained hopeful that the Shalimar could be saved.
“I reached out to the Shalimar diner property developer and asked him to halt all demolition ASAP,” Perlman said in an email early Wednesday morning. “Another interested party has come forward, and would like to tranport the Shalimar Diner to Kingston, N.Y.”
Hours later, the iconic eatery was reduced to a pile of rubble. Perlman, who became known as “Diner Man” after he brokered deals to move the Moondance Diner from SoHo to Wyoming and the Cheyenne Diner from Midtown to Alabama, had no further comment.