Now it’s do or die-ner

Cheyenne Diner’s Red Hook–bound
Michael Perlman

A Red Hook developer has little more than a month to save a railcar-style diner from the wrecking ball by relocating the imperiled throwback of the 1940s to his neighborhood.

Mike O’Connell bought the Cheyenne Diner, on Ninth Avenue and 33rd Street, last spring with the intention of reopening it with a beer garden and more refined menu while retaining some of the Edward Hopper-esque mystique.

But now he’s scrambling to uproot it before an early February deadline imposed by the property owner, who wants to start his own project where the greasy spoon currently sits.

“It’s a great project, but we’re under the gun,” said O’Connell, the son of Fairway developer Greg O’Connell.

The diner project faltered, O’Connell said, when the city allegedly refused his request to haul the restaurant in two pieces over an East River bridge because the halves are too big. He claims the Department of Transportation has not been helpful in finding a way to make them passable.

“The city won’t tell us what the dimensions are or how close we are,” O’Connell fumed.

But Department of Transportation spokesman Craig Chin said O’Connell never submitted an application to get a trucking permit.

“We’re willing to work with them if they fill out a formal application,” said Chin.

Besides trucking the diner to a site across Reed Street from Fairway, O’Connell sought to hire a barge to move it, but has not attracted any bids.

O’Connell sounded exasperated by the ordeal.

“The budget is already triple what I thought it would be,” he vented. “The numbers are going up and my potential customers are going down [because of the economy].”

O’Connell’s woes were first reported this week by the Manhattan newspaper, Chelsea Now.