Protest to Save Greek-American Flagship Diner

Flagship Dinner in Queens. Photo: TNH/Kosta Bej

JAMAICA, NY – Queens residents, including elected officials, participated in a protest on Tuesday, September 12, expressing their support for the popular Flagship Diner, which after fifty-seven years of operation is threatened with a padlock due to the plans of the new owners of the property.

“We will fight and we will not shut up,” said the restaurant owner Jimmy Skartsiaris in an interview with The National Herald. “Our restaurant is a fixture of the area and with our customers we are a family. There are patrons and neighbors, our customers for decades, and we cry at the idea that the restaurant is likely to close,” he added.

As wrote, the owners of the restaurant shortly after the acquisition of the property by White Rock Management (headquartered in Jamaica), for $6.125 million, were told that the plans of the new owners was to build a seven-story structure at the location of the diner.

“We have 35-40 staff, we help as much as we can in the local community – the homeless, etc. – and we now claim our right to justice,” Skartsiaris told TNH.

Last Tuesday, patrons and neighbors expressed their sympathy to the owners of the restaurant with placards with slogans that read “No More Buildings – Save the Flagship” and “Stop the Harrassment White Rock.”

The three owners of the restaurant, Skartsiaris, Frank Lountzis, and Vincent Pupplo, said that the new owners of the property initially offered them a buyout, with $100,000 for each of the three shareholders, but they refused the proposal.

Since then, in fact, the controversy has begun with the new owners who have begun to issue “compliance” notes, pointing out various controversial claims, such as the requirement to improve the steps, pavements, and parking within five days, otherwise they would proceed with eviction.

The lawyer for the Flagship has managed to secure an order that temporarily suspends the period of time to meet the requirements of the owners of the property, and in July, Skartsiaris, Lountzis and Pupplo filed a lawsuit at Queens Court alleging harassment by the owners.

The first hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, September 19. For his part, the lawyer of the new landlords, Steven Schlesinger, said on Tuesday that White Rock Management had originally proposed to the owners of the restaurant to rent the ground floor at the same rate when the new seven-story building is built.

He also added that the takeover bid made to the three owners was “fair” as about that amount of money would be earned ($100,000 each) by the end of the lease period (October 2019) based on their declared earnings. Schlesinger noted that due to the poor maintenance of the property, the new landlord is required to pay more for insurance coverage.

However, the position expressed by the owners of the restaurant is different. Pupplo confirmed that he was offered to rent the space on the ground floor of the new building, but the company never mentioned anything about the exact amount of the rent. He labeled “ridiculous” the claims that the site is not maintained well.

Skartsiaris reiterated the fact to TNH, calling the company claims about the property untrue.

“We will fight” is the decision taken by the three owners of the Flagship, which, as has been said, has the support of the local community and the Greek community as well with an estimated 2,500 signatures already collected.

Officials who participated in Tuesday’s protest, New York City Councilman Rory Lancman and New York State Senator Tony Avella, argued that new owners have never come into contact with the local community to recommend and discuss their plans for the site.