Hunt’s Point is set to see a rare sight – a sit-down seafood restaurant as part of a new mini-mall.
In a neighborhood where locals are as hungry for jobs as they are for seafood, the new Red Lobster is promising to bring jobs along with crustaceans.
The eatery has promised Community Board 2 that Hunt’s Point locals will get first dibs on about 200 jobs at the new location, expected to break ground at Southern Blvd. and Hunt’s Point Avenue later this year.
“Once they’re in there, they will have to impress management, but locals will be at the front of the line,” said Rafael Salamanca Jr, the board’s district manager.
Red Lobster agreed to the job consideration stipulation as part of its efforts to nab Board support for a liquor license at its 9,000-square-foot, 312-seat restaurant, set for a 2015 opening.
The full board voted to push through Red Lobster’s application at its February meeting, with only one abstention and one negative vote. That go-ahead clears the way for State Liquor Authority approval.
Through no clause in the stipulation binds Red Lobster to hire locals —only to interview them before interviewing anyone else— Salamanca said he’s confident that the franchise is committed to bringing the community on board.
“It’s a great way to start off a relationship,” he said. “Some managerial positions will have already been filled, but the rest of the people they will want to hire local.”
Rocky road for plan
Red Lobster is part of a larger development, called “The Crossings,” that has been in the works for over four years. Developers Prusik Group had originally hoped to include units of affordable housing, as well as “big-box” retailers like those at Gateway Mall off the Major Deegan Expressway, in the project, but ended up downsizing the plan.
Besides Red Lobster, both McDonald’s and Deals Discount Store have signed on to join the mall.
Local leaders are rallying around the idea of a rare white-tablecloth restaurant in a neighborhood dominated by take-out.
“We need a sit down restaurant in the area, and Red Lobster is going to attract people that don’t normally come to Southern Boulevard,” said Medina Sadiq, executive director of the Southern Boulevard Business Improvement District.
The new restaurant is coming in just a block away from the Hunt’s Point Avenue subway stop, and Sadiq’s hope is that visitors to Red Lobster will stay a while and check out the shops on the commercial strip.
“The Crossing” will at least be better for the community, said Sadiq, than the existing BP gas station on the site that will be axed as part of the plan.