Junior’s Restaurant has earned a lot of superlatives since it opened in Downtown Brooklyn on Election Day in 1950, among them the one that adorns every orange takeout box: “The Best Cheesecake in N.Y. — New York Magazine” (a distinction that dates to 1973, but still).
It was headed for another distinction this year, when Alan Rosen, who took over the business in 1992 and whose family has owned the restaurant since its first cheesecake, decided to sell the two-story building. In a neighborhood where real estate brokers talk about record-setting prices and rents the way pilots used to talk about breaking the sound barrier, the sale was major news. Offers to buy and build an apartment tower poured in from Brooklyn, Manhattan and abroad. The highest bid: $450 per buildable square foot, well over the previous high for Brooklyn of $350, for a total of $45 million in cash.
If the right firm buys up the land and air rights for the entire triangular block around Junior’s Restaurant in Brooklyn, shown, it would be quite possible to build to heights of 1,000 feet or more.
That’s a lot of cheesecake,” said Mr. Rosen — who, nevertheless, and after much agonizing, a visit to his therapist and a series of sleepless nights, turned it down.
Mr. Rosen turned down a bid as high as $450 per buildable square foot, well over the previous high for Brooklyn of $350, for a total of $45 million in cash. Credit Kirsten Luce for The New York Times
“This is Junior’s identity, is this building. This is the one where I came on my first dates. It’s where my family spent most of their waking hours,” he said in an interview on Monday, about a week after making his decision, as he contemplated his stewardship of a legend in Brooklyn. “Not the one down the street, not the one below 20 stories of condos. This one.”
When Mr. Rosen, 45, put the site up for sale in February, he said he would insist that the buyer bring Junior’s back to the ground floor of any new building. In the meantime, he said, the restaurant would open at another Brooklyn location and temporarily relocate the flagship within the neighborhood. (It also has outposts in Times Square, Grand Central Terminal and at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut.) But he wavered over the summer, saying he would consider leaving the building permanently for the right offer.
The $45 million offer would not have accommodated a ground-floor Junior’s.
Mr. Rosen said he also received offers worth half that amount that would have allowed the restaurant to return, but after receiving disappointed calls from customers and talking it over with his longtime employees, his wife and his 81-year-old father, Walter Rosen, who still walks around the dining room some mornings, he decided he could not give it up.
Though Mr. Rosen insists the turnabout was a personal decision, not an attempt to preserve the old Downtown Brooklyn of which Junior’s is one of the few remnants, he is bucking a trend.