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Thread: Historic N.J. Diner to be Demolished

  1. #1

    Default Historic N.J. Diner to be Demolished

    Historic N.J. Diner Could Be Demolished
    Historic New Jersey Diner Could Be Torn Down As Part of Development Project

    The Associated Press

    JERSEY CITY, N.J. Jan. 21
    There's a lament on the jukebox at the Flamingo Restaurant these days that is not a song title.

    Fliers have been taped to the wall-mounted consoles at each booth, bearing news that the diner's omelettes are numbered. The Flamingo is slated to be torn down sometime next year to make way for a development project.

    The Flamingo is a local institution of sorts, a place where any police officer, construction worker or night owl can go for coffee, french fries or a piece of pie 24 hours a day every day but Christmas and New Year's. Those without a home can take refuge from a cold night without even ordering.

    The diner's starkly lit, no-nonsense decor, gruffly friendly staff and exterior sign featuring a pink flamingo that glows like a beacon of kitsch give the diner a romantic appeal all its own.

    "It's the soul of Jersey City," said Shandor Hassan, 34, a sculptor and photographer who lives in the city's nearby warehouse district.

    But city officials say the Flamingo stands in the way of progress.

    A road widening is planned to keep traffic flowing smoothly from a booming corner of the financial district known as the Colgate Redevelopment Area. Water on two sides and the historic Paulus Hook neighborhood on the third side make the diner's street "the only way out" of the redevelopment area, said Bob Cotter, the city's planning director.

    "When it's all said and done, we're talking about 25,000 employees coming here," Cotter said. "Colgate is the economic engine not only of Hudson County, but of the northeast corner of New Jersey, as is the whole waterfront."

    The Flamingo's plight is similar to other diners across the country. Despite a recent nostalgia, the American Diner Museum in Providence, R.I., figures the number of diners has fallen from a high of 5,000 or 6,000 to around 2,400 in recent years, many of them struggling against fast-food restaurants.

    Jersey City is not the only place in the state where revitalization carries a cost. Older structures have been sacrificed to redevelopment efforts in Trenton, Camden, Elizabeth and elsewhere. In Newark, a proposed downtown sports arena would require razing several city blocks.

    Tod A. Marder, a professor of architectural history and chairman of the art history department at Rutgers University, said disappearances like that of the Flamingo are not surprising, but can be counterproductive to an area's vitality and long-term economic development.

    "What we do know about modern development is that large, moneymaking operations are generally preferred over the preservation of our cultural heritage," Marder said. "Very rarely do we take a long-range view."

    The Colgate area is a dozen square blocks across the Hudson River from lower Manhattan, with 2.5 million square feet of office space housing some 10,000 workers, and another 3.5 million square feet under construction or approved. Thousands of Goldman Sachs workers will occupy a single building still under construction and already the state's tallest.

    Cotter, the city planner, said a 15-foot sidewalk and right-turn lane are needed at the diner's corner to handle pedestrian and automobile traffic.

    Stan Eason, a spokesman for Mayor Glenn Cunningham, noted that as a councilman in the 1980's, Cunningham opposed a similar plan. But, Eason added, "the Jersey City waterfront looked a little bit different then," and the mayor now supports the widening.

    The Flamingo occupies the base of a Victorian walk-up dwarfed by surrounding skyscrapers. Its owner, Andy Diakos, said the building dates back to 1848, when it was built as a restaurant and hotel. He opened the restaurant in 1968, eight years after immigrating to New Jersey from Greece, then bought the building several years later.

    The city has offered him $1.5 million for the property, although Eason put the figure at about $2 million. But money is not the issue, Diakos said. His customers and 16 employees are.

    "This is my life, I'm down here 43 years," said Diakos, 59, who is contemplating legal action. "I don't want to move."

    Among those sorry to see the diner go would be workers restoring the damaged PATH tunnel linking the Exchange Place and World Trade Center stops. Two dozen workers were there for a recent midnight lunch break.

    "This time of night, this is the only place," said a worker, Ron Mitchell, 49, of Bayonne.

    If the Flamingo does pass into history, more than just bricks and linoleum counterparts will go with it, said Marder.

    "When an old building is also part of the cohesive social fabric, I think we lose double," he said.

  2. #2

    Default Historic N.J. Diner to be Demolished

    I've heard about this. I've never actually been in it, but from what I hear, it's a hotspot for many people who don't have many other places to go, as well as for people who just want to hang out there. I think it should stay, and I think that the people who want it to stay should make their voices heard, posters, ads on radio (maybe even TV), word of mouth, things like that.

    Or maybe developers and friends of the Flamingo can meet half way and give it a new spot in the same area, there's a restaurant vacancy at 101 Hudson, maybe the Flamingo can move there, it's one block away.

  3. #3

    Default Historic N.J. Diner to be Demolished

    A 24-Hour Diner, Fighting to Live Another Day

    JERSEY CITY, Feb. 14 When Michael Dubin, an investment manager who works in the waterfront financial district here, comes into the Flamingo, a diner at Greene and Montgomery Streets, everybody knows his name.

    "Hi, Mike," the waitresses behind the Formica counter and some of the customers call out to him. Not only that, the waitresses remember that he will want a bowl of soup, except on Thursdays, when they save him the special of the day, moussaka, because he comes in after the lunch rush. And they always save a newspaper under the counter for him.

    Mr. Dubin, who has been coming to this 24-hour diner for 10 years, says all the customers are treated this way. "They know if you want your salad with or without dressing," he said the other day as he sat at the counter. "It's about the fastest service on the planet."

    So of course, he and other regulars were upset when they learned that the city had plans to tear down the diner, on the ground floor of a Victorian building. The city wants to demolish the building this summer to widen Greene Street and make way for more traffic as the financial district around it continues to thrive.

    The city offered to pay the owner, Andy Diakos, $1.5 million for the restaurant and the building, which houses several offices. Mayor Glenn D. Cunningham has offered to help relocate him to a new site. But Mr. Diakos, who opened the restaurant in 1968, eight years after immigrating to New Jersey from Greece, said he was not interested.

    "I don't want to be moved," he said the other day, as he paused while mopping the beige linoleum floor. "All my life I'm down here on this corner."

    It is only a slight exaggeration. Mr. Diakos, 59, worked at a pizza place across the street from the Flamingo shortly after he first came here in 1960. (The pizza place is now a parking lot.) His two sisters, Sophia Bertos and Christina Diakos, wait on tables here, as do some of his brothers-in-law and other relatives.

    Mr. Diakos, who wears a white cook's shirt and pants, cooks, cleans, waits on tables during busy times and even makes deliveries. He works six or seven days a week and takes time off only to visit Greece during summer vacations. But he cannot imagine not coming to work, at least not any time soon.

    "I don't want to leave here," he said, adding that he could not imagine retiring. "After 100 years, I'm going to give up working."

    But even as progress has continued to stamp out more of Jersey City's original buildings and establishments to make way for the gleaming skyscrapers echoing those of Manhattan's financial district just across the Hudson River, the Flamingo may be spared the wrecking ball after all. On Tuesday, more than 150 of the diner's patrons and other supporters went to City Hall and told council members not to tear down the Flamingo. And lo and behold, the Council agreed to reconsider its decision, made last summer, to condemn the property.

    "That's why they put erasers on pencils," said the Council's president, L. Harvey Smith. "So you can erase your mistakes."

    But lawyers for Mr. Diakos said today that it was probably too early to celebrate. They said that after the euphoria of Tuesday's meeting, Mr. Diakos and his family had not heard from city officials about any plans to reconsider the condemnation, even as a March 7 hearing in Hudson County Superior Court to formalize the city's decision approaches.
    Anthony F. Della Pelle, one of Mr. Diakos's lawyers, said that the Flamingo does not stand in the way of progress.

    "You can let the development occur and still save the Flamingo," he said.

    The Flamingo forms sort of a demarcation between the Colgate Redevelopment Area, with its futuristic skyscrapers, including a new one that will house Goldman Sachs and is already the state's tallest, and the brownstones and graceful business structures of old New Jersey.

    There are no shortage of restaurants in Jersey City, but those who frequent the Flamingo including construction workers, financial managers, the homeless and the elderly in the neighborhood say there are fewer and fewer places that are affordable and open 24 hours.

    "There's hardly anything that's open all night around here," said Joan Colletti, 53, who lives two blocks away. "I'm a single person on disability. I live on a fixed income in a single room with no kitchen facilities, so I have to eat out. For me this is absolutely a must."

    And there are few places where the waitresses never use notepads to write down orders because they practically know everyone's favorites by heart. The waitresses will even give her a wake-up call at home, Ms. Colletti said.

    Jim Weinert, a lawyer who has been coming to the Flamingo for 15 years, said, "I love this place." He knows by heart all the daily specials and the workers' shifts, much the way they know his favorite foods. "There are few places anymore where you can just come and eat, sit, yack and relax," he said.

  4. #4

    Default Historic N.J. Diner to be Demolished

    April 11, 2003
    In Jersey City, a New Assessment of a Diner's Value: Priceless

    JERSEY CITY, April 10 To make way for downtown traffic, city leaders decided last year to seek the demolition of the Flamingo diner, one of the last mom-and-pop businesses in its booming financial district. But the plans opened up a new lane of traffic a parade of protesters who beat a path to City Hall.

    Today, after months of hearing a growing clamor from the Flamingo's supporters, Mayor Glenn D. Cunningham announced that he would spare the wrecking ball and allow the 24-hour diner to stay where it has spent the last 35 years, rather than razing it for a street widening.

    The mayor made his announcement at the Flamingo, in the midst of the lunchtime crowd, with some of the customers and longtime employees crying tears of relief. The owner, Andy Diakos, a Greek immigrant who was dressed in his everyday cook's uniform a white shirt and pants hugged Mr. Cunningham.

    "I've listened to the people," the mayor said. "God bless the Flamingo, and may she fly forever."

    Mr. Cunningham said he was swayed by the 10,000 signatures gathered on a petition to save the diner, the crowds of hundreds who showed up at several City Council meetings to protest the closing, and the calls he received from many patrons, especially elderly customers who said the Flamingo was one of the few 24-hour places where they could still get an affordable meal.

    Instead of tearing down the building, at the corner of Montgomery and Greene Streets, the city will now make Greene Street one-way during rush hour, the mayor said.

    The city had offered Mr. Diakos more than $1 million for the diner and the four-story, red-brick Victorian-style building in which is situated.

    Using the city's power of eminent domain, officials said they needed to tear down the building to accommodate the increased traffic created by a new office building under construction by the securities firm Goldman Sachs, which is expected to employ 6,000 people.

    But Mr. Diakos said he was not interested in the money, but only wanted to keep running the diner, where he works six or seven days a week alongside several relatives.

    City officials were not counting on the determination of his three daughters, who were raised working in the restaurant alongside their parents and aunts and uncles. The young women hired a real estate lawyer, and mobilized the Flamingo's loyal customers to call on the council during meetings.

    "All my father ever wanted to do was to continue running the Flamingo," one of the daughters, Kalliope Diakos, 30, said today as she stood next to the mayor. "I am happy that the city has not turned its back on my father and my family."

    Ms. Diakos, who works in sales and marketing for HBO, graduated from the London School of Economics, she said. Her sisters, Joanna, 28, and Maria, 27, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania.

    "It's because of his hard work that we could do that," Kalliope said.

    Mr. Cunningham, who is running for the State Senate in the June 3 primary, and has said he will seek re-election as mayor, said he had not spoken to Goldman Sachs about his decision.

    "I'm pretty sure Goldman Sachs would have preferred the building to go down," Mayor Cunningham said. "But I've checked their voting address, and they don't vote in Jersey City."

    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  5. #5

    Default Historic N.J. Diner to be Demolished

    Why not just move to different location? *The Greek diner in the East Village was closed earlier this year by some real estate company who bought the land and the adjoining lot. *In this case, the diner operators retired. *Many East Villagers and many others signed a huge petition to no avail. However long live Scotties at 41st and Lexington Avenue in Manhattan. *Still open 24/7.

  6. #6

    Default Flamingo Diner+Entire Building For Sale-Paulus Hook,Downtown Jersey City

    1 of Paulus Hook's Most Popular Areas, 1 Block to Exchange Place PATH...

    The Ever Popular Flamingo Diner and It's Entire Building For Sale in an Incredibly Booming Paulus Hook Area with HighRise's being Built Everywhere.

    Offered at $4,000,000

    Michael Petrak
    Liberty Realty
    43 Montgomery Street
    Jersey City, NJ 07302

  7. #7
    Forum Veteran MidtownGuy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    East Midtown


    So, all that fighting, then a victory, and now this? Sad for the folks for whom it was a regular place to eat affordably.

  8. #8
    Jersey Patriot JCMAN320's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Jersey City

    Question One over the flamingos nest

    Sale could mean end for landmark Flamingo

    Thursday, February 22, 2007

    After nearly 40 years in operation, the Flamingo Diner may soon sell its last order of bacon and eggs if a pending multi-million-dollar deal for the cozy neighborhood landmark goes through.

    The four-story building at 31 Montgomery St. that houses the diner was listed in a real estate advertisement on a popular Internet message board, Jersey City List ( The asking price was $4 million, and sources familiar with the deal said it is currently "under contract."

    The building's owner, Andreas Diakos, would only say "no story" yesterday when asked about the sale of the 155-year-old building that houses his diner.

    Diakos opened the 24-hour diner roughly 40 years ago, long before the surrounding neighborhood was penned the "Gold Coast." He then bought the entire building roughly 20 years ago, according to published reports.

    Liberty Realty, which is handling the sale, did not return phone calls seeking comment.

    City officials said the $4 million price tag suggests that the Flamingo's days are numbered, saying any new owner would have trouble recouping the sale price without substantial renovations or possibly tearing down the entire building.

    "It would be sad," said Luba Suchowacki, a resident of the Downtown neighborhood for four decades. "It's convenient and affordable, and it's the only diner in the neighborhood."

    One new Downtown resident said the economics of the real estate market make the sale inevitable.

    "It was eventually going to happen. What are you going to do?" said Bill Corcoran, who moved to Jersey City from New Orleans more than a year ago.

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