Red Lobster cooking for pier

The Brooklyn Paper
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The anglers at Canarsie Pier may have a high-powered companion trawling for a catch way bigger than the ordinary fluke or bluefish.

According to rumors now beginning to circulate through the ‘hood, Rep. Edolphus Towns, whose district includes areas adjacent to Canarsie Pier, has cast his net to bring a Red Lobster eatery into the empty restaurant once occupied by Abbracciamento.

The rumors, which originated from someone with ties to Towns, have nonetheless been denied by his office. “The congressman,” this paper was told, “said he is not involved with that.”

Similarly, Wendy Spirduso, a spokesperson for the restaurant chain, when asked if Canarsie Pier were being looked at, would only reply, “Right now, we don’t have any immediate plans to build another restaurant in Brooklyn.”

In addition, Brian Feeney, a spokesperson for the Gateway National Recreation Area, of which the pier is a part, said that, at this time, the National Park Service (NPS) was not having, “A discussion right now about a concessionaire coming into the building. What we are trying to focus on,” Feeney went on, “is a new General Management Plan.”

Such plans, Feeney said, are produced every couple of decades for each NPS property. “We look at all the options in the park and all the visitor uses and needs. One of the things we are going to be looking at is the usage of the pier and what would be the most appropriate thing to do there,” he went on.

To that end, Feeney said, “We will be seeking a lot of input from the community. It’s a good time to take a look at the pier.” However, he stressed, “Until we determine the full usage of the pier and what services are needed, we are not going to be having another restaurant there.”

At the time NPS decides what it thinks is appropriate at the pier, Feeney added, it would launch a Request for Proposals (RFP) that anyone across the country could respond to.

“We have to open it up to anyone who might want to try to do it,” Feeney emphasized. “We couldn’t say, okay, Red Lobster, you’re in there. First, though, we have to determine if it’s a viable business opportunity. That’s a long process, but it protects everybody.”

Nonetheless, local residents are already sizing up whether or not the national chain would be a good fit with Canarsie Pier.

“I wouldn’t mind having a big name entity there,” remarked Neal Duncan, the president of the United Canarsie South Civic Association (UCSCA). “I don’t want to see another fast food restaurant. We have enough of those. I’d like to see something more uppity. I wouldn’t be opposed to Red Lobster per se.”

What Duncan would oppose, he said, was an effort to bypass residents. “Anything that comes in, we want to be a part of,” stressed Duncan. “We don’t want someone from outside to come in and develop it, then run away. We want someone from Canarsie to come in that we know cares about the community and will be there for the long run.”

Lenny Fogel, the vice president of UCSCA, took a different view from Duncan. He said that, in his opinion, having a sit-down restaurant like Red Lobster would be “a terrible idea.”

The location, Fogel contended, is, “Not suitable for a sit-down meal. It’s only suitable, in my humble view, for quick food,” he told this paper. “I’ve always said that the best all-around situation would be to have different businesses in the same building, a Dunkin’ Donuts, a Baskin-Robbins, maybe a Burger King or KFC. Parking there is already bad at the height of the season. If you have Red Lobster there, people coming in to eat are not going to find parking.”

But, one Brooklyn resident said that – even if Towns is casting his line in their direction — he didn’t think Red Lobster, which has a restaurant at the Gateway Center, was likely to bite. “Why would they want to compete against themselves?” the resident asked.

That in itself shouldn’t be a problem, Duncan opined. “It’s not like they have one restaurant and that’s it,” he noted. “They have a territory and they are able to put in as many restaurants as demand requires. It’s nothing to do with competing against themselves.”

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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