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Bowled over! Brooklyn’s oldest ally could become a synagogue • Brooklyn Paper

Bowled over! Brooklyn’s oldest ally could become a synagogue

Bowling at Maple Lanes could be replaced by praying at a new shul — if the city OKs a zoning change.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

The owner of Brooklyn’s largest bowling alley is paving the way for its demolition by trying to convince the city to allow apartments and a synagogue to be built where it stands.

The owner of Maple Lanes, a kingpin’s haven for more than 50 years, applied in August to rezone his property to allow a seven-story building and a shul, according to the Department of City Planning.

Building owner John LaSpina, whose father Peter opened Maple Lanes in 1960, told the New York Times that he sought the change to increase the value of the property.

Presently, the building, at 60th Street and 16th Avenue in Bensonhurst, is zoned for manufacturing — which would not allow construction of housing. LaSpina wants the city to change the zoning to residential, which would allow him — or whomever he sells to — to build the apartment complex and a synagogue. A residential zone already exists across the street from the alley.

The change could make the property more palatable to the number of nearby congregations who could then expand atop the land. There are more than a dozen congregations within a mile radius of the bowling alley, some of which operate out of private homes.

The city has not yet approved the application, and it would take lengthy public review process before the zoning change could be made.

The news of the possible shuttering hit patrons as hard as a bolwing ball to the foot.

“I think it’s terrible, I’d be lost,” said Adam Archone, who lives on 72nd Street in Dyker Heights and bowls in the Veterans Affairs League. “I come here four times a week.”

The 48-lane center is home to amateur leagues for all ages, an annual scholarship tournament, and scores of casual bowlers looking for a night of glow-in-the-dark bowling — a special that lights up the lanes on Fridays and Saturdays. Maple Lanes also attracts Brooklyn’s Big Lebowskis with deals like dollar games on Sundays, party packages, and $2 plates of French fries. For the kids, Maple Lanes offered bowling lessons and free games all summer, according to its website, bowlmaple.com.

Brooklyn still has a fair amount of bowling alleys, but none come close to the size of Maple Lanes. For instance, Shell Lanes on Bouck Court in Gravesend has 16 less lanes, while the 34-lane Gil Hodges Lanes on Strickland Avenue in Mill Basin turned about half its lanes in 2003 to a gym. And three years ago, the borough’s bowling scene suffered a big blow when Mark Lanes on 88th Street in Bay Ridge was demolished and replaced with a parking lot.

Nearby congregations could not be reached for comment on Friday night, but a rep from the Shoneh Halochos congregation on 56th street said his group wasn’t interested in expanding.

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