Market Diner (now Cheyenne Diner) photo circa 1983
by Larry Cultrera
Back in April, 2008 New York City’s Cheyenne Diner was closed and threatened with demolition when the property the diner was located on was reportedly being redeveloped for condos. Michael Perlman, a young crusader who was in the forefront in saving NYC’s Moondance Diner when that was also in the way of “progress” got the word out through various media including this blog about the Cheyenne’s plight and imminent destruction.
With the ensuing media blitz came a saviour out of Brooklyn, one Mike O’Connell who was going to move the diner to the Red Hook section of Brooklyn. Well it has been reported recently that fate has dealt a blow to these plans as O’Connell, in trying to get the necessary permits to move the large diner from Manhattan to Brooklyn has hit a major roadblock literally.
The City of New York will not allow the diner to be moved across the Manhattan Bridge leaving O’Connell a very expensive (and basically cost prohibitive) alternative in getting the diner to its proposed new home. This alternative included transporting the diner to the East River docks and using a crane to place it on a barge to carry it across the river then utilizing another crane to lift it from the barge on the Brooklyn side and transporting it to Red Hook.
O’Connell has decided not to continue and now the diner is back in the sights of the wrecking ball or bulldozer. Michael Perlman has sent out a notice to try and save the diner again. Below is the text from that announcement….
Committee To Save The Cheyenne Diner
HISTORIC CHEYENNE DINER FOR SALE ONCE AGAIN:
Must Be Transported ASAP or Will Be Demolished!
NEW YORK, NY (Jan 8, 2009) – NYC’s historic Cheyenne Diner (411 9th Ave & 33rd St), “the diner of popular demand,” is now for sale at a reasonable but negotiable price (once again), on the condition that it be transported off the property ASAP, or the diner will be demolished within the next few weeks, if a deal is not brokered.
Michael Perlman a.k.a “Diner Man”
(http://www.observer.com/2008/diner-man-rescue) is ready to broker another deal, & this time it is the Cheyenne Diner all over again. As of this week, Cheyenne Diner owner Mike O’Connell’s plans have been abandoned since the diner wouldn’t fit across the Manhattan Bridge via a flatbed, and the next option, transporting it by barge, proved 3 times as costly as traditional figures a year ago.
The best route towards the diner’s future salvation is the George Washington Bridge, amongst a few others, but the GW route didn’t connect to Red Hook, Brooklyn. It was difficult to access Red Hook due to its location. Perlman has already received notification from potential buyers from NY, MI, AL, & UT.
While the Cheyenne can potentially land a good home out of state, many patrons are praying that a NY-based buyer will contact the Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org, so it can ideally remain closer to its roots than the Moondance Diner in WY. All information will then be relayed to Mike O’Connell and George Papas. Rigging costs will vary upon where the diner is transported to and the route. The diner can be transported in 2 sections. According to PropertyShark.com, the Cheyenne Diner’s building dimensions are 15 ft x 96 ft (2,000 sq ft), Lot dimensions 19.75 ft x 100 ft (1,975 sq ft).
Backtracking… As Chairman of Committee To Save The Cheyenne Diner, Perlman presented a proposal to property owner George Papas (owner of nearby Skylight Diner & developer for Cheyenne property) on closing day, Sunday, April 6th 2008, and convinced him to work together. A 9-story condo is slated to rise on premise, which marked the end of the diner’s 68 year-run for its Manhattan chapter. A total of 24 prospective buyers came forward within a record-breaking 2 weeks after its Apr 2008 closure (and more continue to date). It came down to first-come, first-serve.
Mike O’Connell of O’C Construction bought the historic Cheyenne Diner structure, and once considered it his dream to transport, restore, and reopen the diner in Red Hook, Brooklyn. HISTORY: The Cheyenne Diner is a highlight in terms of its diverse patronage including celebs i.e. Jerry Lewis & David Letterman, and since it’s the LAST streamlined railway car-inspired diner in Mid-Manhattan, and a scarcity borough-wide. It was pre-assembled by Paramount Diners in 1940, and known as the Market Diner through ’86 after the popular chain.
It retains a majority of its original &/or distinctive elements. The streamlined façade features vertical and horizontal stainless steel securing bowed colorful enamel panels, wrap-around windows, a curved entryway with glass block, & a reverse channel illuminated neon sign. The interior features a streamlined barrel roof, counter & stools, & Indian tribal coins. The Cheyenne was recently granted 1st prize on NYC-Architecture.com’s “Top 10 NY Diners/Restaurants.”
Perlman explains: “Diners are amongst the ‘ultimate public institutions’ which harbor countless memories and bridge the generations. During the 30’s – 60’s eras, freestanding diners numerously dotted NYC’s 5 boroughs, and brought together individuals of various occupations in a cozy & striking ambiance. Today, they are becoming an endangered species at an alarming rate, and their loss is often most heartfelt. It is essential to preserve & reuse all remaining classic freestanding diners.
Despite time constraints, we are committed to doing all we can for a noble cause.” The Committee’s consensus is that “A steady market for such nostalgic gems, coupled by the fact that they were manufactured to move; can ensure a victory for the Cheyenne Diner.”
Cheyenne Diner in operation in May 2007 & April 6, 2008 closing day photos, vintage photos, & photos during Mega Moves documentary filming, Courtesy of Preservationist Michael Perlman: http://www.flickr.com/gp/8095451@N08/7t0113
1941 photo (pan & zoom 3rd in sequence), courtesy of NYPL: http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigital/dgkeysearchdetail.cfm?trg=1&strucID=401863&imageID=712065F&word=9th%20avenue%2033rd%20street&s=1¬word=&d=&c=&f=&lWord=&lField=&sScope=&s
NYC Diner Preservation Record
– Sam Chinita housed in freestanding diner (8th Ave & 19th St), demolished 2000
– River Diner (11th Ave & 37th St), demolished Mar 2004
– Lunchbox Diner (357 West St), restored in 2002, but closed & remains abandoned
– Munson Diner (11th Ave & 49th St) transported to the Catskills in 2005
– Moondance Diner (80 6th Ave) transported to LaBarge, WY in Aug 2007 & reopens in 2009 (Michael Perlman founded the Committee To Save The Moondance Diner in spring 2007, which made him an official NYC preservationist after working with Extell Development, and granting it a new lease on life in LaBarge, WY)
– Staten Island’s Victory Diner transported in Aug 2007 to SI’s Midland Beach Promenade & reopens in 2009
– Some icons holding onto their own:
NYC’s Empire Diner (10th Ave & 22nd St)
jet-age Market Diner (11th Ave & 43rd St) reopened early Dec 2008
Air Line Diner/currently Jackson Hole (Astoria Blvd & 70th St)
Square Diner (33 Leonard St near Varick St & W Broadway).
Contact: Michael Perlman, Chairman & Preservationist
Committee To Save The Cheyenne Diner