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Zoning Update
By Bruce Silberblatt

Flower Drum Imperiled

Given these prosperous times, intense development pressure is being exerted upon both First and Second Avenues. New construction has forced the closing of once familiar Turtle Bay shops and restaurants.

Concomitant is the specter of landlords in quest of higher and higher commercial rents from existing and future tenants. This was a key factor in the closing of the Paparazzi Restaurant on Second Avenue at 51st Street. Unlike rent-controlled or stabilized residences, there are no statutes governing commercial rents. Now the Flower Drum, 856 Second Avenue, is imperiled.

The Flower Drum, a family-operated Chinese restaurant, has been a friendly Turtle Bay fixture for the past 37 years. It has survived a massive 1974 explosion next door as well as, some years later, a devastating fire. Less than two years ago a small pharmacy next door to Flower Drum gave way to a Duane-Reade drug store, one of many that are proliferating over the East Side.

This Duane-Reade is currently far smaller than its other, typical stores. If it could enlarge into the space now occupied by Flower Drum it would increase its area three-fold. The Helmsley-Spear organization, manager for the landlord of both the Duane-Reade and Flower Drum sites, has demanded a triple rent increase from the restaurant. Flower Drum faces eviction. It is not illogical to assume Duane-Reade would move in.

Although the Turtle Bay Association normally does not intervene in tenant-landlord disputes, TBA President Bill Curtis explains "We were asked by Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz to support her in her effort to help Flower Drum. Her representative was at the March board of directors meeting and asked us if we would take a stand in the matter and demonstrate if needed. We said yes, and took a vote that was unanimous. My letter to Helmsley-Spear will be extremely pleasant and will ask them to be as constructive as possible in finding a reasonable solution to the matter."

If this were the only Duane-Reade in our area perhaps all might be excused. In fact, there are at least 75 in Manhattan, a half-dozen of which are within a 10-minute walk of 856 Second Avenue. In short, both our neighborhood and the borough are saturated with Duane-Reade stores. We hardly need another one, particularly when it threatens the Flower Drum, a well-known establishment that has long served Turtle Bay.

Flower Drum is prepared to negotiate a reasonable and fair new lease; it should not summarily be thrown into the street to make way for a facility that is redundant to its many other outlets in our area.

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The Turtle Bay Association is a nonprofit (501c3) community organization.

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