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Pier pressure

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So much for a “big interest” in the Canarsie Pier.

Gateway Recreation Area officials said that fewer than six vendors decided to bid on taking over the long-vacant Abbracciamento on the Pier restaurant — a site that has been a neighborhood disaster zone since the restaurant at the foot of Rockaway Parkway closed eight years ago.

Interested bidders “had a restaurant background,” officials said, though they would not name any names, claiming that nothing about Gateway’s “Request for Expressions of Interest” will be made public for another two and a half months.

At the behest of Rep. Ed Towns (D–Canarsie), Gateway extended its application period for the Abbracciamento site from June 17 to June 24, but the extension did not whet bidders’ appetites.

During a tour of the Abbracciamento site in early May, only two potential concessionaires — one from East Flatbush, the other from the Rockaways — showed up to check out the 5,477-square-foot stucco building, which dates back to the 1930s.

The lack of further interest is likely due to all the work that the winning bidder will have to undertake. The National Park Service estimates that a new concessionaire would have to put in $2.5 million to operate a non-food service and $3.9 million for a restaurant.

But even more money may be needed, officials admitted. The estimates were made in 2006.

But the restaurant isn’t the only problem. The pier itself may have to undergo a massive rehabilitation project before the concessionaire could get in there and see his or her dream realized.

Then there’s the curse — historically, concessionaires have failed at the site, Barbara Rapeta, a business management specialist working with Gateway Recreational Area told this paper.

But these requests for an expression of interest was not just about bringing a new vendor to the pier. It was about brainstorming about the pier’s future.

“We’re trying to collect ideas,” Rapeta said. “We are not using this as a vehicle just to solicit a contract. It’s not going to move that fast.”

Julian Phillips, a spokesman for Towns, concurred.

“The overall feeling is that we want the pier to become a destination,” Phillips said. “We want it to be a place people can come to and look at with pride.”

Phillips said a collaboration between public and private interests — as well as an anchor restaurant to attract people to the area — could bring the pier back to its former glory.

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