2006-08-10 / Top Stories

Congressmen Rankled Over Neglect Of Canarsie Pier

By Neil S. Friedman

Congressmen Ed Towns (left)and Anthony Weiner stand near abandoned Canarsie Pier restaurant questioning why the site has been vacant for the last four years.        Neil S. FriedmanCongressmen Ed Towns (left)and Anthony Weiner stand near abandoned Canarsie Pier restaurant questioning why the site has been vacant for the last four years. Neil S. Friedman

A business, whether it's a restaurant or a seasonal concession, couldn't ask for a more welcome setting - Canarsie Pier on the waters of Jamaica Bay. But for some reason the National Park Service can't lease the property or, as congressmen Anthony Weiner and Ed Towns suggested at a press conference at the site last Thursday, have simply neglected it for the last four years, despite interest from merchants.

Weiner, whose 9th Congressional District en-compasses parts of Queens and Brooklyn, including the pier, and Towns, whose 10th C.D. constituents regularly visit the seaside setting, called on the National Parks Service "to immediately solicit bids for concession spaces" so that Canarsie Pier may once again provide service to visitors.

On the majority of weekends - and some weekdays - throughout the year, fishermen, bird watchers, picnickers and others avail themselves for recreation and relaxation on and around the pier, which is part of Gateway National Recreation Area, the nation's largest urban national park. In addition, families and children often enjoy the large grassy area and playground that adjoin the area.

Despite overflow crowds on some weekends, the pier lacks any services or concessions for visitors. A building on the pier's west side had housed a couple of restaurants over the years, including longtime occupants Abbracciamento's, followed by Sunset Landing, but it has been vacant since 2002.

Instead of providing ice cream or beach chairs or fishing gear, the location "has become an eyesore," Weiner and Towns reiterated from an August 3 letter they sent to Barry Sullivan, the Gateway Na-tional Recreation Area superintendent.

In addition to attracting even more visitors, Weiner said, concessions at the pier could prove lucrative for the National Parks Service, and therefore, the federal treasury.

"As we fight to secure more funding for the ever expanding needs at our local national park, it is hard to imagine an excuse for failing to take advantage of what could be a lucrative concession contract for the National Parks Service," the congressmen wrote.

"We urge you to end the foot-dragging and reopen concessions at our local park," the letter concluded.

"Just because visitors come to Gateway in buses and not Winnebagos doesn't make it any less important," Weiner told reporters. "Expanding services at Canarsie Pier will allow even more New Yorkers to enjoy the outdoors without leaving the Big Apple."

"The lack of concession facilities also means that there are small business people missing out on a business opportunity," Towns said. "It also means that some young person or people in this community are missing out on a job, or an opportunity. There is so much to be gained from concession facilities at the pier that I urge the National Park Service to immediately solicit proposals."

When contacted for a response to the congressmen's letter, Gateway general superintendent Barry Sullivan sent the following statement to the Can-arsie Courier : "I would like to thank Congressman Anthony Weiner and Congressman Edolphus towns for their interest in moving our business management forward.

"This is a high priority of mine and I am looking at filling two new positions to get the backlog of potential business opportunities moving.

"This not only makes good financial sense, but it helps provide goods and services to our visitors."

Four years ago, Gateway officials closed the Sunset Landing restaurant when they said its owner William Klein "defaulted and did not keep to the contract and pay the franchise fee for several months." When Klein agreed to a repayment scheduled, he failed to keep that too, so the contract was terminate, a Gateway spokesman told the Courier at the time.

When a closing notice was posted on the restaurant's front door in June, 2002, State Senator John Sampson, who represents Canarsie and surrounding communities, joined Towns in calling Gateway's action "a disservice to the community."

Four years ago, Gateway spokesman Brian Feeney told the Courier , "We are working on getting the concession open for day-to-day operation for the public. We hope to have a community meeting so the public can help determine (the restaurant's) future."

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