BY JON CRONIN
Flagship Diner patrons turned out to show their support at a press conference on Tuesday that pressured the property owner to respect the two years left on the diner’s lease.
The diner’s owners have complained that, for the past two months, the site’s owners—White Rock Management—is sending them “notices to cure,” which cost the diner’s owners time and money to investigate the property owner’s complaints against the lease.
Vinnie Pupplo, a co-owner of the diner for 32 years, said that the diner’s lawyers were able to get a Yellowstone Injunction against White Rock Management that would allow them more time to answer the notices to cure.
Pupplo said that, over the course of three weeks, 2,400 customers have signed a petition telling White Rock to back off. He added that the owners will “fight to their dying breaths.”
“This place has been a community gathering point for 52 years,” said state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) during the press conference. “How sad is this? Neighbors consider it a cultural institution. We’re here to say to the owners, ‘No way! They have a legal right to be here and [White Rock] should absolutely back off.’”
Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest) said the community has already lost a number of neighborhood diners that were near and dear to local residents.
“I have been coming here all my life,” Lancman said of the Flagship. “My mom took me here as a kid. These are the places we gathered around. We see through the maneuvers and the schemes. This is our diner. We want it to be here for as long as it can be.”
He added that he and his colleagues would do whatever they could to help keep the diner open.
“Most of the people who come in here are like family,” Pupplo said. “We know them all by name.”
After the press conference, long-time customers stayed behind to profess their love for the diner. Jeanne Majors, a faithful customer, took two buses to get to the diner from the Allen Cathedral Senior Residence. Majors said that she was thankful for the generosity of the owners, who fed her three or four times a week for a year when she was homeless. Frank Lountzis, one of the owners, drove her to the Brooklyn shelter she stayed in during snow- and rainstorms.
“When I finally got housing, I came back and told them,” Majors said. “The whole staff embraced me. They’re like family.”
Sylvia Shumer, another long-time faithful customer, said that the eatery had long been a spot for her family to congregate.
“The diner is truly a home away from home,” she said. “I came here with my kids, who now want to come here when they visit.
It was always affordable and always good.”
Lountzis told the Queens Tribune that White Rock has offered the owners $300,000 to buy the site, which would convert to $100,000 each and $60,000 after taxes.
“But that would be nothing for the employees,” Lountzis said.
Reach Jon Cronin at 718-357-7400 x125, firstname.lastname@example.org @JonathanSCronin.