Tag Archives: Bell Boulevard

Real-life ‘escape room’ to open on Bell Boulevard in Bayside

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of PropertyShark/Christopher Bride

Now you can be the main character in your very own adventurous escape.

Bayside will be getting its very first real-life, themed “escape room” with the arrival of Challenge Escape Rooms on June 19.

New York City schoolteacher Chris Purcell and his wife, Janice Galizia, a psychologist with experience being involved in live theater, decided to open Challenge Escape Rooms on 40-18 Bell Blvd. after experiencing one for the first time only two months ago.

Galizia’s sister, Lauren, is one of the owners of their unique enterprise, and all three design the fantasy challenge themselves. A place in one of the rooms can be booked at www.challengeescaperooms.com or by calling 516-888-0202, and for a limited time customers can use promo code “CHALLENGE” when booking online for 25 percent off the admittance fee.

Escape rooms were popularized in Europe and Asia, with one company from Japan claiming to have been the first to open one in 2007. While the United States has only recently seen escape rooms gain popularity on its shores, they have quickly proliferated to become a trendy weekend activity for couples and groups of friends.

Purcell said that being trapped together in an impossible situation can be a great team-building exercise for different groups of people, even strangers.

“You come out of it bonded by what you went through,” said Purcell. “Whether you win or lose, no matter what the result is, it focuses on collaborating with your friends, family, strangers, to figure out this challenge.”


Mixed-use Bayside buildings sell for record value due to rising demand

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Cushman & Wakefield  

Filled with bars, shops and a wide variety of restaurants, Bell Boulevard is the main commercial strip in Bayside.

The thoroughfare is serviced by buses and the Bayside LIRR station on the boulevard, which brings high foot traffic to the area.

For these reasons, and partly because of a spillover from nearby Flushing due to lack of inventory, rising demand for real estate on the Bayside commercial strip is leading to sale prices well above past averages.

In fact, the two attached mixed-use buildings at 39-32 and 39-34 Bell Blvd. recently sold for $3.8 million, which equates to about $731 per square foot and is a record for a residential and commercial mixed-use building sold in Bayside, according to broker Cushman & Wakefield.

“The package provides great upside for the investor in an area that is continuing to see an abundance of attention in the real estate world,” said Cushman & Wakefield’s Stephen Preuss, who handled the transaction for the seller.

In 2012, commercial real estate was selling for an average of $550 per square foot on Bell Boulevard and as much as $600 for top properties. Last year, the average rose to $615 per square foot, according to Preuss.

The two buildings at 39-32 and 39-34 Bell Blvd. have 5,200 square feet of space, in which there are four residential units and two ground-floor retail spaces.

As a side note, one of the retail tenants, Il Vesuvio Pizzeria, is moving a few doors down to the location of the former Okinawa restaurant and expanding to include a bar, restaurant and pizzeria.

Il Vesuvio is also changing its name to Il Borgo and is expected to open in the coming weeks.


Bayside restaurant Il Vesuvio moving, expanding and changing name

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Il Vesuvio Pizzeria in Bayside is saying ciao to its small location and doubling in size just a few doors down on Bell Boulevard.

Owners are moving the restaurant to 39-28 Bell Blvd., the site of former hibachi steakhouse and sushi bar Okinawa, and expanding it to include a bar, restaurant and pizzeria.

Pat Fabiano, an owner of the restaurant, also said they are also changing the name from Il Vesuvio to Il Borgo to reflect the new start for the business. Il Borgo is expected to open in about a month and a half.

Fabiano purchased Il Vesuvio about a decade ago. The restaurateur also owns Organico in Port Washington, which is a formal sit-down organic Italian restaurant that has received high ratings.

Il Borgo will be less formal, and Fabiano envisions a sit-down eatery on Bell Boulevard where everyday families and friends can gather.

“I feel that people need that option of an easygoing place and to not be scared because they see tablecloth,” he said. “I want people to walk in with their regular T-shirts.”

The new restaurant will have an “industrial look,” with brick, metal and wood features. The expansion will allow for about 120 people, and there will be a party room. The six-person staff will more than double as well.

Fabiano said there will be a grand opening party for Il Borgo.



Bayside BID updates community on early results of parking study

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

Finding parking on the Bell Boulevard commercial strip in Bayside is not for the faint of heart. It is tough.

And after months of collecting data for the Bayside Village Business Improvement District (BID) parking study, consulting firms VHB and Desman Associates can clearly show how desperate the area is for more parking.

To summarize: from about midday through the night, parking spots on Bell Boulevard and even nearby side streets become filled to near capacity, causing congestion on the commercial strip, presenters said at a BID meeting on Tuesday.

“Nothing that you heard [at the meeting] was surprising,” said Lyle Sclair, the executive director of the BID. “But I think what is valuable is that we are quantifying it. I don’t think people know what a parking desert Bell Boulevard is.”

The BID’s study, which Councilman Paul Vallone allocated $20,000 to fund last year, is looking to find a solution to the parking mess, which is a result of local employees, shoppers, restaurant-goers, commuters looking to catch the LIRR and residents all fighting for spots.

At the meeting, representatives of the firms and BID members didn’t offer any concrete solutions to the problem, but introduced suggestions to residents and business owners and collected feedback for what residents would like to see.

The solutions at this point are theoretical, and broken into two groups: long-term and short-term plans. The short-term plans are cheaper and could be implemented toward the end of the year. They include changing the timing and pricing rate of meters on Bell Boulevard with the Department of Transportation to hasten the turnover rate of drivers, and using valet parking with private businesses that have lot space near Bell Boulevard.

The long-term solutions could take years and will be costly. Possibilities include the creation of a five-level private parking garage with 320 spaces, which could cost more than $15 million, or a mixed-used building with residential units, ground-floor retail and parking, which would run upwards of $40 million.

Some residents in the crowd weren’t too excited about the idea of building a structure or garage near Bell Boulevard, because they felt it wouldn’t deter commuters and employees who don’t live in the neighborhood from looking for free spots on residential streets.

Residents want to free up public parking spaces in front their houses, because some drivers occasionally block their driveways.

“We are going to take into consideration everything with the study that we do. Hopefully we can help that situation,” said BID President Dominick Bruccoleri. “The idea is to implement changes in our district that will help [the business] side not hurt [the residential] side.”

The BID is going to use feedback from the meeting to further discuss solutions. The study is expected to be completed by June.


Bayside Village BID to hold April 14 hearing on local parking woes

| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Those having a hard time finding parking near Bayside’s Bell Boulevard can vent their frustrations at a special public hearing the Bayside Village Business Improvement District (BID) will hold on the topic on Tuesday, April 14.

Residents, drivers and merchants alike are invited to attend the session scheduled to take place at 7 p.m. at Bayside United Methodist Church, located at 38-20 Bell Blvd.

The Bayside Village BID, with the assistance of Councilman Paul Vallone, recently hired an engineering firm to examine parking problems in the area around Bell Boulevard and form potential short- and long-term solutions. It is reportedly part of a revived attempt to fix parking problems in the area launched more than a decade ago.

In a letter, Bayside Village BID Executive Director Lyle Sclair said that attendees will learn information on some of the “best practices from across the region.” BID members and residents can also share their ideas and input on how to ease the pain for all drivers.

Meanwhile, Sclair urged local businesses to sign a pledge that they would keep spots in front of their shops free as much as possible.

“Many of the business owners signed a pledge that they and their workers would not park on Bell Boulevard in the metered spots that are designed for customers,” Sclair wrote. “We understand that you may need to use the parking in front of your business for pickups and deliveries. The pledge is not meant to discourage you from using the space in front of your store for business operations, but once you are done, please move your car to the surrounding side streets.”

BID members who cannot attend the April 14 meeting may schedule one-on-one consultations regarding the plan earlier that day from 3 to 6:30 p.m. at the BID’s office located at 213-39 39th Ave., Suite 310.

For more information, click here or call 718-423-2434.


69-year-old woman fatally struck in Bay Terrace

| ctumola@queenscourier.com


A 69-year-old woman was hit and killed as she was trying to cross a Bay Terrace street on Monday, police said.

The victim was attempting to walk across Bell Boulevard when a 57-year-old woman driving a Subaru struck the pedestrian near Estates Lane about 5:35 p.m., authorities said.

EMS took the victim, whose identity has yet to be released by police, to New York Hospital Queens, where she was pronounced dead.

Police were on the scene investigating.



McDonald’s vows to return to Bell Boulevard after closing neighborhood fixture

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Ross Belsky

Bell Boulevard hasn’t seen the last of McDonald’s. The golden arches came down when the Bayside restaurant closed last year, but the franchise owner plans on opening in another location near Bay Terrace.

“We loved our customers there, but Bell Boulevard has changed a great deal over the years,” said Maria Sullivan, who owned the McDonald’s at 41st Avenue for 25 years before it closed.

The fast-food chain’s lease expired at the end of last year and Sullivan decided not to renew it, leaving an empty storefront where one of the neighborhood’s longtime fixtures once stood. Sullivan decided to close the eatery because a number of factors were taking a bite out of her Big Mac sales: the area has become filled with an array of food options for potential customers while a lack of parking and a drive-through made it hard for Sullivan to lure people in.

“I’ll miss the regulars,” Sullivan said. “There used to be different groups that would come in for coffee meetings and I didn’t mind them being there at all.”

Now she wants to find a location in a section of Bell Boulevard that isn’t as congested to allow her to provide a drive-through and parking.

“It’s just the nature of this area,” Sullivan said. “You have to have these things to be successful.”

Sullivan owns four other McDonald’s spread across Bayside and Little Neck.


McDonald’s longtime Bell Boulevard restaurant shuts its doors

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Ross Belsky

Maybe it was the Hamburglar who succeeded in robbing Bell Boulevard of its beloved McDonald’s restaurant.

The fast-food chain’s lease expired at the end of last year and the owners didn’t renew it, leaving an empty storefront where one of the neighborhood’s longtime fixtures once stood, according to a spokesman for Bell Corp., which owns the property at the corner of 41st Avenue.

The spokesman said that Bell Corp. hadn’t increased the price of the lease or made any changes.

A spokesman for McDonald’s did not return phone calls seeking comment.

According to a published report, McDonald’s is currently looking for a new location in the Bayside area. For anyone looking for a Big Mac fix, there is another McDonald’s on Northern Boulevard at 203rd Street.


Bayside electronics store not closing – just improving

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Bayside residents recently took to social media to bemoan the loss of an electronics store on Bell Boulevard, saying it marked the end of an era filled with 45 RPM records and the British Invasion. But the store isn’t closing — it’s just adding a modern repair shop.

“We’ve been here since 1946 and we’re not going anywhere,” said Jay Hildebrand, the owner of S&L Electronics. “We love Bayside. Why would we leave?”

Jimmy James, a Bayside resident, recently posted on a Bayside Facebook group that the store was closing. Fans of the store commiserated over the sad news

“So sad…I bought all my 45s there. They had the top 40 laid out in order every week in these little cubby holes,” resident Denise Marie Coyle wrote.

Many wrote their recollections of the store’s workers fixing their record players and VHS players. Hildebrand wants to modernize the store’s ability to fix electronics by making the jump from cassette players to iPads.

“I don’t know how to fix any of these new gadgets,” he said. “So we’re renting out part of our space to an electronic repair shop.”

These days, the majority of customers who come into the store with broken electronics have digital gadgets, but Hildebrand has had to turn them away. Soon, though, he won’t have to.

Hildebrand expects the construction of a small shop in the front of the store to take about two weeks to complete.

In the summer, Hildebrand makes most of his money from air conditioner installations, and the store also serves as a thrift shop. Hildebrand’s eclectic business interests are reflected through the store’s messiness. He wants to take the opportunity of the repair shop construction to do some minor renovations and cleaning up.

“A lot of people gather all this stuff and then at the end of the life they look at it all and they don’t know what to do with it,” he said, with three jackets from the Korean War hanging on a pole behind him.

People often come in, Hildebrand said, wanting to sell their parents’ and grandparents’ belongings. And so the store has collected more than just electronic items.

As the new repair shop goes up, the business is still open, even if it looks like the store is closed.

“People ask me why don’t I retire,” Hildebrand said. “But that’s not fun.”


New Bayside Colombian restaurant is instant hit

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Chicken lovers flocked to Mr. Pollo #1 on Friday to try the new Colombian restaurant on Bayside‘s Bell Boulevard.

The eatery was even busier on Thursday, opening day, according to workers.

“They say it usually takes two years before a business becomes profitable, but I don’t think we’ll need to wait that long here,” the manager said as he rushed to answer ringing phones.

The pork loin lunch special

The restaurant’s opening is the latest in a South American food invasion on Bell Boulevard, with a new Peruvian restaurant, Piura, set to open and the Mexican restaurant Cinco de Mayo reopening further down the commercial strip.

The store was packed for the second day in a row. A steady stream of people ordered take-out on Friday afternoon, while others chose to eat inside the eatery. Two delivery boys tried to stay ahead of the lunch rush, while workers ran around like hens without their heads.


The new business on Bell Boulevard claims to be the first Colombian restaurant in Bayside.

There is also a Mr. Pollo #2, owned by the same people, in Whitestone, according to the menu.


Bayside’s small businesses tell film industry to take five

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo via Facebook/GreggSullivan

Call it Hollywood fatigue.

The Bayside Village Business Improvement District (BID) wants the city to put a temporary stop on granting filming permits to movie and show makers using Bayside as a shooting location.

The organization, representing dozens of small businesses, plans on sending a letter to the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting to request a moratorium on filming in commercial areas like Bell Boulevard, according to the organization’s executive director, Lyle Sclair.

“Filming in Bayside is a balancing act, but too often it’s swayed away from us,” Sclair said.  “There’s a much better way to work together.”

Citing a marked loss of business because of frequent filming activity in the area, Sclair said that small businesses need more representation in government.

The FX-produced show “The Americans” used Bayside to film several scenes in January. During filming, Harry Rutgers’ jewelry business was penned in on 41st Avenue and Bell Boulevard.

“We might as well be closed when the film crews are here,” said Rutgers, who is the owner of Bell Family Jewelers. “The whole business district shuts down and everybody suffers while one [group] benefits.”

Rutgers cited many of the same problems that Sclair will bring up to the city. The vehicles used to transport the film crews and equipment are big and bulky, and these vehicles take up all the parking spots on Bell Boulevard that would be used by potential customers.

Rutgers said that another problem is that the crews don’t spend any money in the area because they come with their own food and services.

“They don’t spend a nickel on Bell,” Rutgers said. “I never heard anyone say they benefited from the film crews.”

Rutgers suggested that the trucks and trailers used by the film industry should park away from Bell Boulevard so they don’t take up parking. He also said that if the crews spent money in the area, business owners would be more willing to tolerate the film industry.

Sclair plans on making all of these suggestions when he sends the letter to the Mayor’s office. He is also urging the City Council to pass oversight bills.

Councilman Paul Vallone is signing the letter, according to his spokesman.

“I firmly support the Bayside Village BID’s request for a moratorium on filming on Bell Boulevard and the surrounding avenues, as the area is rapidly becoming a filming hot spot,” he said. “Our residents and small business owners should not have to bear the burdens that come with excessive filming, especially in an area that already has very limited parking space availability. It’s unfair for our small businesses to suffer these consequences.”

Film crews park trailers and trucks in front of businesses and take up many parking spots, causing the merchants to lose money, according to Sclair. The large vehicles also cause people to think that businesses are closed.

Bayside is frequently used for movie and television shoots, reflecting the city’s initiative to make New York City a filming center.

The mayor’s office did not respond to a request for comment but, according to the city-run “Made in NY” site, the city “looks to support film and television productions of all shapes and sizes, and we look to make each and every one of those projects a clear, seamless, and enjoyable production experience.”

In the city’s haste to make the five boroughs film-friendly, it’s alienated small businesses, Sclair said.

“It seems like the city is saying, ‘We’re choosing the film industry over mom-and-pop businesses,” he said.


Bayside small businesses praised by feds

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the borough president's office

With more small businesses than big box stores on Bell Boulevard, the commercial strip was the perfect destination for the head of the federal Small Business Administration (SBA) when she made the trip to New York last week.

“I’m so excited to be here in Bayside,” said Maria Contreras-Sweet, administrator of SBA. “Unlike many other places, Bell Boulevard has such a high concentration of small businesses and I want to keep this area thriving.”

Contreras-Sweet, along with Congresswoman Grace Meng, spoke to the owners of Bayside Milk Farm and went behind the food market’s deli to try out some of the food.

During the trip, Contreras-Sweet urged business owners to use the free resources that SBA provides. Many new initiatives, Contreras-Sweet said, are meant to help small businesses modernize their tools.

Small businesses can get technical assistance through a program called Operation HOPE. Entrepreneurs can also get loans and business counseling through SBA’s Direct Resource Packet, which brings together information about lenders and counselors in one document online.

“Thank you for your voice and thank you for all the great work you’re doing,” Meng said to Contreras-Sweet.


Retail and office buildings on Bell Boulevard sell for $7.6 million

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Massey Knakal

Two sections of the Bell Boulevard commercial corridor in Bayside are under new management.

A retail strip with some office space on Bell Boulevard in Bayside traded hands for about $5.6 million, according to Massey Knakal Realty Services, which handled the transaction.

LCDM Investors LLC sold the property, which stretches from 43-19 to 43-23 Bell Blvd. The buildings have nearly 13,000 square feet of space, but 22,000 square feet of buildable space, the realty firm said.

Additionally, a two-story building a few blocks away at 39-26 Bell Blvd. was sold for $2 million. The building is fully leased with tenants, including longtime pizza restaurant Pete’s.

39-26 Bell Blvd.

39-26 Bell Blvd.


Identify this place in Queens

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


Do you know where in Queens this photo was taken? Guess by commenting below! The answer will be revealed next week.

Last week’s answer to “Identify this Place”: Northern Boulevard at Bell Boulevard in Bayside 


Bayside Medical Arts Center on sale for $9 million

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Massey Knakal 

The Bayside Medical Arts Center, anchored by a division of North Shore-LIJ for decades, has been listed for $9 million.

A member of the family firm C.B.R., LLC, which owns the building at 23-19 Bell Blvd. in Bay Terrace, plans to retire and another family member no longer wants to manage the building, according to Stephen Preuss of Massey Knakal, who is marketing the property.

Preuss added that the approximately 15,000-square-foot property would be a great investment as the offices are well-attended by many patients, the building is in great condition and the “tenancy is extremely strong.”

There are 12 units throughout the building and only one vacancy. There are also 20 parking spaces for patients and staff.

Other tenants in the building range from dentists to pediatricians and other medical specialists.

The building is located directly across from the Bay Terrace Shopping Center, which is home to large chains such as The Gap, Waldbaum’s, Barnes & Nobles, an AMC Loews Theater and Applebee’s, as well as local brands.