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Long Beach mulls sale of bus garage

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Trying to work itself out of deep financial troubles, Long Beach is considering selling its 20,000-square-foot city garage, where buses and other municipal vehicles are maintained.

The building was the topic of conversation at a City Council work session Tuesday night, when a real estate broker said he wanted to bring a Pop-eyes chicken franchise to the Long Beach Boulevard property.

Hossein Amir, president of Goli Realty Corp., in Merrick, told council members that he believed the city garage would make an excellent location for the Popeyes chain, which is known for its New Orleans-style chicken. Popeyes would be willing to pay $1.7 million for the garage property, he said.

Amir said he has been finding locations for developers and nationally known chains, including Walmart, KFC and Taco Bell, in the New York market for 32 years.

“Popeyes is very interested, since they don’t have a store in the area,” he said. “It’s a great company that is expanding across the country and on Long Island.” Amir said he had discussed the possibility of bringing a Popeyes to Long Beach with city officials in 2018, and that he had sent a proposal to them. A meeting with council members has taken some time to put together, he added.

City Manager Donna Gayden said that a decision to sell the garage would have to be made by the council. “The council has to say they are interested in moving forward on this,” Gayden said. “The city is not in the best financial situation.” Long Beach would have to establish another garage for its vehicles, and it would need to apply for some type of government grant to fund the renovation or construction. An environmental study would also be necessary. Securing a grant and allowing time for the study would take as long as 24 months, Gayden said.

“We would have to do an environmental study just to get the grant,” she explained.

The garage sustained water damage during Hurricane Sandy, but was fully repaired.

In response to a question by Councilman Mike DeLury, Amir said it would take about five months to build a Popeyes on the site.

“Why Popeyes?” asked DeLury, who said he had never been to a Popeyes before.

“Our food is fresh,” Amir said. “You’ll love it.”

Popeyes is a 47-year-old company that began with one restaurant in Louisiana, and now has some 2,700 in the U.S. and around the world.

Amir appeared to press for some type of action by the council. Several members said they could not act on his proposal during the work session.

Council president John Bendo said at the end of the hour-long session that both sides “have our bureaucracies to deal with,” but that over the next few weeks, council members would discuss the proposal with Gayden and the corporation counsel’s office. Amir said he expected to hear from the city in the next few weeks.

Long Beach is battling to achieve financial stability. The city has had to lay off 142 workers in the past year, although a number have been hired back. Its budget calls for a $2.9 million cut in expenditures, and revenue is expected to decline by about $5.1 million. Gayden and her financial team have created a five-year plan to help replace the general fund balance and develop new sources of revenue.