Sale of Maple Lanes bowling alley hits a snag

What if Maple Lanes doesn’t get torn down for housing after all?

This paper has learned from a source close to the negotiations that the purchaser of the property on which the bowling alley is situated, Fairmont Lanes,  has not been making its full required payments in advance of the scheduled April 1, 2013 closing date, with Maple Lanes’ owners reportedly concerned that Fairmont may not be able to make the needed payment at closing.

Fairmont’s plan is to raze the bowling alley and construct 112 units of market rate housing and a synagogue on the site.

“It’s been dragging for years,” said the source, who also said that Fairmont is currently in default and owes the LaSpina family, which owns Maple Lanes, more than $750,000, a result of an extension agreement between the two parties that pushed the closing back from 2006 to next year.

“If they are due $50,000, they give them $10,000,” the source went on, asking how, if Fairmont can’t make the scheduled payments to keep its option open, how would the company be able to make the lump sum payment that will be due at closing?

Yet, as the source pointed out, Fairmont and its principals Charles and Barry Katz, have already spent many millions of dollars, both in payments to the LaSpina family and for legal and design work to develop a plan that could win city approval (a zoning change is necessary). “They’ve put a lot of money into this, but there’s a chance they could be in default.”

For Maple Lanes, it hasn’t been easy either. Since news of the impending sale has become public, the LaSpinas have taken more than a little heat from bowlers unhappy at the anticipated demise of the 52-year-old recreational haven, said an alley staffer who spoke on condition of anonymity, adding that – with the April 2013 closing date in mind – leagues that currently use Maple Lanes have found another place and some of the bowling alley’s employees have found other jobs.

“So, if it goes into default, they will have to start over again,” the staffer said.

The proposed project – which incorporates a variety of two, three and four-bedroom apartments in 25 buildings — began back in 2004, according to a September 10 letter from the LaSpinas to the community.  Calling it a “very difficult business decision,” the LaSpinas contended, “It was gut wrenching for us to realize that it is time to say goodbye.”

Area residents may remember Katz as the mastermind behind the ill-fated Brooklyn Junction project, known locally as the Megamall. That proposal involved creating a shopping mall in the air space above the train tracks between 61st and 62nd Streets, from Eighth to 14th Avenue, and engendered a lengthy fight between the developer and the community that eventually ended after the MTA terminated its agreement with the developer in 1999 at the urging of local leaders.

Maple Lanes is one of a handful of family-friendly bowling alleys that remain in Brooklyn.

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