2018-07-04 / Features

Goodbye Ben’s

BY JASON D. ANTOS


Photos Jason D. Antos Jay Parker bids Rego Park and greater Queens farewell as Ben’s Best Delicatessen closed its doors after 73 years of service. Photos Jason D. Antos Jay Parker bids Rego Park and greater Queens farewell as Ben’s Best Delicatessen closed its doors after 73 years of service. Ben’s Best served its last matzo ball soup and pastrami on rye on June 30 after 73 years of service.

The lights went dim on the Rego Park institution at 9 pm on Saturday, as owner Jay Parker and his staff served their last customer.

The reason for the closure, according to Parker, is due to the installation of bicycle lanes and truck loading lanes by the city Department of Transportation (DOT) last year.

Parker claims he is down more than 20 percent in profits and was even offering curbside pickup to make up for the loss in revenue.

“You can’t park here and you can’t park there, it’s ridiculous,” Parker told the Gazette. “It’s a sad and terrible thing.”

Author and historian Michael Perlman, chair of Rego-Forest Preservation Council, was working with Parker on a last-ditch effort to have someone purchase Ben’s and save it from destruction. Those plans, unfortunately, have not been successful.


A line of faithful customers crowded Ben’s Best to get that one last bowl of matzo ball soup and pastrami. A line of faithful customers crowded Ben’s Best to get that one last bowl of matzo ball soup and pastrami. Last week, on June 27, Parker met with DOT Queens Borough Commissioner Nicole Garcia at the restaurant, along with former Congress Members Gary Ackerman and Karen Koslowitz to try and discuss what could be done to save the iconic neighborhood institution. The conversation, which took place at a table situated beneath the portrait of the deli’s founder Benjamin Parker, yielded no results except for the same explanation that the DOT gave for its reasoning in adding the bike lanes in the first place.

According to the DOT, since the implementation of the Queens Boulevard safety redesign in 2015, there have been no pedestrian or cyclist fatalities on what was once known as the “Boulevard of Death.” Pedestrian injuries decreased by 55 percent and total crashes by 19 percent in 2015 and 2016. On the block where Ben’s Best is located at 96-40 Queens Blvd, prior to implementation of this section of the redesign in 2017, there were approximately 10 spaces against the median and approximately


Jay Parker behind the counter one last time. Jay Parker behind the counter one last time. 22 spaces against the curb, a DOT spokesman said. The block, however, is well served by buses and trains, added DOT, which conducted a so-called shopper’s survey for their 2018 phase of the project in nearby Forest Hills and found that 89 percent of 617 shoppers surveyed on Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills arrived by foot or mass transit.

Ben’s Best has served some of the most famous names in politics and entertainment, like Mayor Ed Koch, comedian Jerry Lewis, Robert De Niro, Jerry Seinfeld and Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Parker’s father Benjamin opened Ben’s Best Delicatessen, which has been serving generations of kosher deli fans since 1945.

In 1983, his son Jay purchased the establishment. That year, there were more than 1,500 kosher delis in the five boroughs.

Today there are only about 12 remaining.

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