May 24, 2022 By Michael Dorgan
The outdoor café on the waterfront at Hunters Point South Park has gone dark and will remain mostly shuttered for the start of the summer as it undergoes renovations.
The café, called LIC Landing, closed Friday as the operators were required to vacate the premises since their license with the city to run the premises had expired.
The closure means that parkgoers will be without an on-site café as the summer season kicks into full gear while the staff there appear to be out of job—at least in the short term.
Frank Ottomanelli, who owns the burger restaurant F. Ottomanelli Burgers & Belgian Fries in Woodside, is taking over the license of the café following an RFP process, according to the NYC Parks Dept. The café is located next to the East River Ferry Terminal and consists of a kiosk, a large sit-down area and a 2,000-square-foot event area.
Ottomanelli, 55, told the Queens Post that the café will remain closed for parkgoers until the start of July as it undergoes a major overhaul. However, Ottomanelli will open the café for Memorial weekend from May 27 through May 30 from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
“It will be a soft opening to give people a sample of what is about to come,” Ottomanelli said.
Furthermore, Ottomanelli said he is conducting interviews with former LIC Landing staff members to see whether they would like to be rehired. He said that some of the workers there have already secured employment elsewhere. He said he is looking to hire 10 to 15 staff at the café.
The café will be Ottomanelli’s second establishment following on from F. Ottomanelli Burgers & Belgian Fries, which was established in Woodside as a butcher shop by his father in 1960. The burger joint is located at 60-15 Woodside Ave.
Ottomanelli, a Long Island City resident, said he is looking forward to fully reopening the space after the renovation work is completed.
He said he wanted to take over the waterfront space because of his strong links to the community and a desire to see the area receive a facelift.
“I’m a big advocate for the Long Island City community. I just love Long Island City, I think it’s a great neighborhood,” Ottomanelli said.
“We really want to make it a cool place for the people of Long Island City and from all over to come and enjoy.”
Ottomanelli said he has agreed to invest a minimum of $234,100 in renovating the café and its surrounding areas as part of his operating license agreement. The license will run for nine years, he said.
He said a significant chunk of his investment will go towards beautifying the outside areas which are in need of repair. Ottomanelli said the exact plans are still being worked on but will include new seating and new landscaping. Many of the picnic tables and benches at the park have fallen into disrepair.
“The area has deteriorated, and it needs to be restored significantly,” Ottomanelli said.
The inside of the café will also be refurbished with new equipment also being installed, he said.
A spokesperson for the Parks Dept. said that the contract also includes an agreement to upgrade a storage area and exterior signage.
Vendors who had applied for the license were notified about the final decision last week. The previous operators, a group of investors known as SC Landing, had applied for the license but were unsuccessful, according to the spokesperson.
Ottomanelli said he has big plans for the café and wants it to be open all year round.
He said he is also eager to work with the Hunters Point Parks Conservancy to co-host live events at the space. The HPPC is a local non-profit group that organizes cleanups, gardening and community events along the waterfront.
The café, Ottomanelli said, will also be renamed although he hasn’t decided on what to call it yet.
Ottomanelli said the café will offer some favorites from his Woodside establishment such as beef burgers, veggie burgers and Belgian fries. The menu will also consist of poke bowls and crispy rice with fish.
He said the café will also serve the company’s signature shakes — which come in vanilla, chocolate strawberry and Oreo flavors — while he is also applying for a liquor license in order to sell beers and wine.
Ottomanelli said the café will also be serving a range of bubble teas with its ingredients being imported from Japan. He said he traveled to Japan to taste the ingredients and secure a supply line for his café.
“We’re going to have something for everyone,” Ottomanelli said.
The new café will be open from Mondays through Sundays from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. when it opens in July, Ottomanelli said.