In a column in this paper last week about future development in Forest Hills, it was suggested the lease for the diner would be up in November, and that a high-rise development would take its place at 63-68 Austin Street in Rego Park.
But Karayiannis disputes the claims, stating that the diner still has two years left on its lease.
“It’s my business to negotiate the lease after two years,” he said, adding that if he started to negotiate a deal so soon, there will be an even steeper raise in rent.
He also argued that a 25-story apartment building could not be constructed in the spot due to zoning laws, and “the highest a building can be built up is two floors.”
Shalimar Diner, which opened in 1974, has been a staple in the community despite changes to the neighborhood’s growing population.
“People come here, they eat and they have a nice time,” he said. “The area is very nice, clean and it’s safe. Even if there are changes in the neighborhood, nothing changes here.”
Karayiannis said what sets Shalimar Diner apart from other diners in the area is that it has always been a family diner.
“This is a family place,” he said. “We have families who come here four or five days a week and they all know each other.”
Resident Cynthea Kimmelman DeVries echoed Karayiannis, saying that her family has meals at Shalimar Diner often.
“My little one, now three-and-a-half-years-old, has basically grown up there, their staff are like family,” Kimmelman DeVries said. “I don't even know what I would say to him if it closed. He affectionately calls it, ‘my diner.’
“One of the hostesses is lovely and feels like an auntie to our son, she's brought him books and cars and other things over the years,” she said.
For Kimmelman DeVries, it’s rare to find “such a family and community friendly place these days,” with the diner offering “something we don't get often in a city this size.”
She’s one of many who were concerned about the future of Shalimar Diner.
“Now people are worried and they are calling me to see if we are really closing, but it’s ridiculous,” Karayiannis added. “The only time this diner has been closed since 1974 was two times when we did renovations. We are here to stay.”