Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Bowling for Tax Dollars

Bowling has always been a fun activity for all members of the family. From the very young to the young at heart all can enjoy the sport of bowling. Unfortunately, bowling alleys have been closing around the area to make way for big box retail stores or residential development. Consequently, residents from Queens are waging a fight to keep bowling in our area.

Why can't city spare some tax deals for bowling alleys?

Monday, June 16th 2008, 2:25 PM

Jim Santora

What sport can you participate in when you are 2 years old and more than 100 years old? Bowling, of course!

According to the United States Bowling Congress (USBC), there were more than 67 million people who went bowling in 2007. Bowling is the No. 1 participation sport in the U.S. and yet it is getting harder and harder to find a bowling alley in the five boroughs.

In 1970, 125 bowling establishments existed in the boroughs; now, sadly, there are less than 25. In Queens alone, where just two months ago, there were seven, there are now five. The recent closings of the well-regarded and populated Woodhaven Lanes and Van Wyck Lanes sent bowlers reeling in search of other sites to continue their sport.

Senior citizens are finding it nearly impossible to navigate to more distant centers. Young children are being deprived of a neighborhood entertainment center and their popular bowling birthday parties. Teens and young adults need to find other exciting and safe things to do on Friday and Saturday nights instead of "Cosmic" bowling. On any given day, you can find people of all ages, colors, religions, nationalities and genders bowling together in harmony.

Woodhaven Lanes and Van Wyck Lanes were the victims of high rent and insurance, increases in the value of the property and the escalating costs of doing business. Reportedly, both will be leased to "big box" retailers with no ties to the neighborhood. Woodhaven Lanes served its community proudly for almost 50 years. It was more than a place to bowl. The center was a meeting place where lives seemingly developed in a blink of an eye, but actually over decades. People found their mates there, made lifelong friendships and received comfort when loved ones were lost.

Now, there isn't a place to mourn another lost loved one - Woodhaven Lanes. Generations of bowlers religiously frequented those lanes. Senior citizens and disabled bowlers eagerly awaited their daily and weekly visits to get away from their aches and troubles. It was vital and low-cost emotional and physical therapy. These are the precious jewels of life that future generations may not encounter.

Recently, two articles appeared in the Daily News stressing tax breaks for the purpose of keeping businesses in the city. Television and movie producers, major fast food chains such as McDonald's and White Castle as well as gas stations were handed large tax incentives. Tennis and golf clubs are routinely given tax breaks as well. None of those enterprises gives back to the community what bowling centers do and yet they are left out of the mix.

There were several bowling entrepreneurs - among them a well-respected proprietor, John LaSpina, an owner of four lanes in the metropolitan area - who were ready to step in and keep Woodhaven Lanes operational for decades to come. A tax incentive would have made a difference and kept the cost of running a bowling establishment at a reasonable level for both the bowler and the owner of the property.

Sadly, an agreement did not come to fruition. Many local politicians base their platforms on the dangers of "over-retailing" of the community and the need to provide quality of life. We have enough places to shop but not enough areas to socialize, play and share our lives. Isn't it time we invested in the community and its people by giving the bowling operators a tax break?

Jim Santora, 55, of Middle Village, was president of a 176-member bowling league at Woodhaven Lanes in Glendale until it closed May 18.


Anonymous said...

First it was totally wrong for Rudy and Mike to give the Mets/Yankees over $1,000PLUS hundreds of millions of extras such as parking garages paid by the public, etc. Stadiums NEVER generate good paying jobs or community investments equal to the public cost of same.

Let the teams pay for their own stadiums AND then pay real estate taxes. Ball teams are a business. If they had to do this, they'd likely end up paying spoiled athletes less. If they sink on the costs, tough.

Bowling is a business. The alley owner could raise prices enough to make money if bowlers were willing to pay the high costs. Otherwise, tough luck. Or become creative and suggest that some shopping center owners consider alleys in the basements (it would bring people to center) or atop parking garages, etc. Still, it would have to be a viable business.

While we're at it.. no money for the Nets and withdraw the money for Madison Square Garden.

Anonymous said...

Oops... forgot some zeros

City gave (out of our pockets) the Mets and Yanks over $1 BILLION

Plus money for Brooklyn Cyclones and Staten Island team..we built their stadiums.

Ironically the only sports investment that has returned money to NYC is the tennis center at Flushing Meadows. The tournament brings in outside tax dollars yearly as well as hotel rooms, etc. It is a rare instance of success but even then our tax dollars should not have gone there.

Anonymous said...

Bowling is a white trash sport.