Nothing on the menu at former site of East Gun Hill Road’s Pelham Bay Diner

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A once iconic diner, development and interest at 1920 E. Gun Hill Road has waned since the Pelham Bay Diner’s closure in January 2019.
Photo Adrian Childress

The Pelham Bay Diner was a near three-decade staple on East Gun Hill Road before serving its final meal in January 2019 — following a $10.25 million sale to Jeff Sutton’s Wharton Properties — after owners cited a stiff competitive environment with the rise of growing national chains and decline of mom-and-pop diners. While pre-pandemic excitement for development at the space included repurposed use for a medical facility, activity at the site remains scant, city building officials told the Bronx Times.

The Department of Buildings issued a work permit in April 2019 to Wharton Properties to allow the developer to begin interior demolition. But progress has since come to a standstill, according to city officials, with most recent activity a 311 complaint about illegal work without a permit at the site.

During a site visit, city inspectors did not find any work being conducted. In the years following the diner’s closure, the site’s adjacent parking lot had become a dumping ground for garbage with vestiges of a once iconic dining spot fading — until the site was cleaned up during the pandemic.

The city Department of Buildings issued a work permit in April 2019 to Wharton Properties to allow the developer to begin interior demolition of the Pelham Bay Diner. Photo Adrian Childress

The diner property that Sutton acquired is bordered on the east by a “hot sheets motel,” the Pelham Gardens Motel, at 2410 Grace Ave. In the late 1950s, that building was built to house the Gun Hill Manor, a popular catering venue for weddings, anniversaries and many other special occasions.

Sutton used some of the proceeds generated by the sale of four downtown Brooklyn properties worth $22 million to United American Land, according to Real Deal New York, to purchase the Gun Hill Road property, which is sited adjacent to The Home Depot.

In the Bronx, Wharton currently owns the 2-story Westchester Square Duane Reade building at 2641 E. Tremont Ave.; the Footaction property at 272 E. Fordham Road; a Payless Shoe Source-occupied building at 2902 Third Ave.; several 1-story commercial sites at 306 E. 204th Street and 3377 Eastchester Road, along with the Hillside Post Office Station at 3480 Boston Road and a Rite Aid-leased property at 5825 Broadway.

Wharton boasts ownership of vibrant, high-ceiling commercial properties scattered throughout Midtown such as the Swarovski in Times Square and the famed Crown Building property at 730 Fifth Avenue, as well as properties in the Bronx, on its website.

Curiously, the former Pelham Bay Diner is not listed on the Bronx properties tab.

When married operators Jerry and Carol Stefanitsis opened their diner, it quickly became recognized for its tantalizing Greek specialties along with the popular “Pelham Bay Burger” and “Bronx Skillet” breakfast special, were popular for motorists coming off the New York State Thruway or the Hutchinson River Parkway. But the Pelham Bay Diner’s pre-pandemic shutdown mirrored the demise of other struggling city diners.

There are 419 diners left in New York City with an average of 13 closing per non-pandemic year, data compiled by the Bronx Times shows.

From 2014-2019, 15 city diners, many in stand-alone buildings, had been sold, according to an analysis by Ariel Property Advisors, a commercial real estate brokerage. There were six sales in Queens, six in Brooklyn, two in the Bronx and one in Staten Island.

Reach Robbie Sequeira at rsequeira@schnepsmedia.com or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes

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