Gutterball! Owner of former Maple Lanes backspins on promised parking

Knock ‘em down, set ‘em up: Developers bowled over the old Maple Lanes Bowling Alley in Mapleton in late March to begin construction on 13 six-story apartment buildings, but the property owners aren’t planning to provide any parking, according to city records.
Brooklyn Daily
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They’re quieter than the final frame of a championship game.

Developers bowled over Maple Lanes in Bensonhurst last week to make way for an apartment complex, but they are mum on details about the project — including why they suddenly changed designs and why they aren’t providing any parking for the 128-unit development.

When the city rezoned the lot at 1560 60th Street from manufacturing to residential in 2012, property owner Abraham Leser said he planned to build a series of four-story townhouses, a synagogue, and parking spaces, but plans he submitted at the end of last year call for 13 six-story buildings and give no indication the massive development will include any parking.

Critics say Leser is skirting zoning regulations by building separate structures just small enough to avoid triggering the requirement to provide off-street parking, and the city doesn’t seem to care.

“They figured out how to get around it,” said Tom Murphy, the reader who tipped this paper off to the lack of lot space. “It’s a very dense residential area, and there’s no push-back from the city saying ‘you cant do this.’ ”

The Department of City Planning and the Department of Buildings did not immediately return requests for comment.

Peter LaSpina opened the famed 48-lane bowling alley in 1960. His son John got the city to rezone the lot in 2012 from light manufacturing to R6A, which allows medium-density apartment buildings, and sold the business a year later for $17.5 million, because the land was worth more than the alley, he said.

At the time, Leser told the city he was planning a series of townhouses comprising 112 units and 56 underground parking spots, and promised — verbally — to stick to that design when he filed plans. The community board, then-Borough President Marty Markowitz, and the City Planning Commission all approved the rezoning — commending the developer’s pledge not to alter his designs.

But Leser apparently has more backspin than a 10-pin pickup. He filed plans with the city in December 2014 calling for 13 separate six-story buildings — and no parking. Three of the proposed structures would hold six apartments each, and the rest would hold 11 apartments apiece, according to the plans.

Zoning requires builders provide a parking spot for half of all dwelling units created, but the city waves the requirement on buildings that would trigger five or fewer spaces. If all the apartments were in one building, the city would require 64 parking spaces, according to zoning regulations. But dicing the project up into 13 buildings lets Leser side-step the parking requirement, Murphy said.

Attempts to reach Leser for comment achieved nothing but gutterballs.

Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D–Borough Park) said the property owner personally confirmed on March 27 that there will be parking, but could not provide details or point to any public record backing up the claim.

“I specifically remember the issue of parking was raised by me, was raised by others, and that was all part of the plan, and as I said, I double-checked today to make sure that was still part of it,” Hikind said. “Who’s going to build a project in Borough Park with no parking — it makes no sense.”

Maple Lanes isn’t the first — and it’s likely not the last — borough bowling alley to face the wrecking ball, as newfangled tech toys pick up more of folks’ spare time. The last alley to go before Maple Lanes was Bay Ridge’s Mark Lanes, which made way for a parking lot in 2006. 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 fewer 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.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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