Borough President Markowitz is throwing gutter balls in his tepid fight to keep bowling alive in Bensonhurst, according to Maple Lane developers who are refusing to find a new home for neighborhood kingpins before they tear Brooklyn’s largest alley down.
Markowitz tacitly endorsed the developers’ plan to rezone Maple Lanes so a condo complex and a synagogue could be built on the property as long as they commit to keeping the bowling alley open until construction starts, try to find an entrepreneur interested in opening a replacement bowling alley nearby, and work with the city to get more parking installed near Shell Lanes in Gravesend — where bowlers are sure to flock to when Maple Lanes closes down for good.
But Markowitz’s demands are already striking out with developers, according to attorney Howard Weiss.
“They are not things we are going to be able to accommodate,” said Weiss, who is representing the developer on the zoning change push. “It’s really outside the parameters of the rezoning.”
Markowitz’s conditions, which were first outlined in the sheepsheadbites blog, came after bowlers begged the borough president to keep Maple Lanes intact.
“All six speakers who provided testimony were in opposition of the project,” Markowitz wrote about the hearing he held in October. “Among the opinions expressed was that Maple Lanes has, over the years of its operation, become a community treasure. Maple Lanes stands out among the few options for bowling borough-wide, in part due to its availability of parking.”
The developers are not legally bound to adhere to Markowitz’s demands, which are only advisory. The city council makes the final decision on all zoning changes.
Longtime bowlers were upset that Markowitz didn’t take a stronger stance against the developers.
“It just shows how many people don’t give a damn about anything anymore,” said Kayla Cox, who has been going to the alley since she was a kid. “If you don’t give a damn about this, what’s next? Children’s playgrounds? There’s not a lot places where kids can go and enjoy themselves.”
The 48-lane center is home to amateur leagues for all ages, an annual scholarship tournament, and scores of casual bowlers looking for a night of glow-in-the-dark bowling on Fridays and Saturdays. For the kids, Maple Lanes offered bowling lessons and free games all summer, according to the bowling alley’s website.
Building owner John LaSpina, whose father Peter opened Maple Lanes in 1960, said he sold the land because it was worth more than the value of the business.
Right now, the building is zoned for manufacturing — which would not allow construction of housing. LaSpina wants the city to change the zoning to residential so the new owners can build their apartment complex and a synagogue that would serve Borough Park’s Orthodox Jewish community. A residential zone already exists across the street from the alley.
Brooklyn still has a fair amount of bowling alleys, but none come close to the size of Maple Lanes. Shell Lanes in Gravesend has 16 less lanes, while the 34-lane Strike 10 Lanes on Strickland Avenue in Mill Basin — formerly Gil Hodges Lanes — turned about half its lanes into a gym in 2003.