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Future of Atlas Park worries area residents

As time grows short until the Hemmerdinger family ends their involvement with the Shops at Atlas Park, residents and business owners continued to fret over what the future holds for the Glendale mall.

“We didn’t want to see it fail,” said Brian Dooley, president of the Glendale Property Owners’ Association, noting his group and developer Damon Hemmerdinger frequently clashed over the mall’s direction.

“You can’t blame it on the economy and you can’t blame it on location,” said City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D−Middle Village), noting the Panera Bread company and the Staples down the street are both doing brisk business on Woodhaven Boulevard.

On Jan. 31, Hemmerdinger released a letter indicating that his company, ATCO, would no longer be involved with the mall as of Feb. 19. The property’s creditors will appoint a new management firm, he said.

Dooley said he feared the two French banks that now own the property, Calyon and Societe Generale, might institute major changes.

Societe Generale did not respond to a request for comment by press time Tuesday.

“They’re going to look to get their loan back,” he said. “And they may not necessarily have the interests of the neighborhood in mind.”

Kathy Masi, president of the Glendale Civic Association, scoffed at the Hemmerdingers’ claims that the stores they brought in were moderately priced, saying “$200 for a T−shirt and $300 for jeans is a little outrageous for this neighborhood.”

She suggested that a group like Simon Malls, which operates Long Island’s Roosevelt Field, take over Atlas Park.

Some residents also worried about the fate of the remaining 12 acres of Atlas Park still owned by the Hemmerdingers.

City Planning Department’s Tom Smith said the Hemmerdingers’ share is still zoned for manufacturing, but noted that the zoning does allow for hotels to be built there.

Masi doubted that zoning issues would prevent the family from developing the site.

“Let’s not forget that everything they wanted, they got it,” she said, referring to the Hemmerdingers’ successful rerouting of the Q45 bus to end at Atlas Park.

Business owners at the mall were less critical of Hemmerdinger and the property in general.

“I think Damon built an incredible facility,” said Shermon Peters, owner of Rosetta Wines. “It’s very sad to see him not be involved anymore.”

Peters said he did not know what the mall’s greatest challenges were and that he had no plans to move his shop.

“The least I as a business owner can do is try to fulfill his vision,” he said of Hemmerdinger.

Joseph Faccibene, owner of Shiro of Japan and a spokesman for the Atlas Park tenant association, emphasized that most of the current stores are not going anywhere.

“We consider the mall to be a modern−day Main Street,” he said. “You have a park and lots of entertainment. It’s only gotten better as time has gone on. So why would that change?”

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 154.

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