After 18 months of worrying about the possible closure of his nearly 40-year-old business, Marty Rosen has reached a compromise with the state Department of Transportation to keep open the Five Towns Mini-Golf and Batting Range, along Rockaway Turnpike in Lawrence.
In December 2015, Marty, who runs the seasonal business with his son Matt, was informed by DOT that his monthly rent of $4,750 was being increased to $12,435, a 160 percent jump, to reflect the latest DOT appraisal of the land’s value. Now, DOT officials have agreed to increase the rent only 35 percent, to $6,412.50.
“This effectively means we’re still in business and we can provide good, clean family entertainment for the community as we have always brought to the community,” Marty said. “We hope to do so for many more years.”
In addition to the batting range —baseball and softball — and the mini-golf, there is a paintball shooting range and an arcade. There are vending machines for ice cream, beverages and candy. The concession stand sells hot dogs, pretzels and churros. There is also a door that highlights the major league ballplayers who have visited. Seven were on the 1986 championship team, including World Series Most Valuable Player Ray Knight.
Incensed that the DOT would dramatically raise their rent, the Rosens contacted local elected officials and created an online petition. As of press time on Tuesday, there were 2,667 online supporters, with many writing how much the batting range means to them. The business is located on state-owned land and operates on a 30-day licensing agreement.
State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Democrat who represents the Five Towns, was one of four elected officials who supported the Rosens, and backed their belief that DOT was overvaluing the property and the rent increase would most likely put them out of business.
“Small businesses are the heart of our local economies,” Kaminsky said. “I was glad to help facilitate this compromise so that the Five Towns Mini-Golf and Batting Range can continue to serve the community.”
Jim Vilardi, a Hewlett resident, and a property appraiser, conducted the research that helped reach what Marty called an “amicable agreement.” Vilardi noted how difficult it is to run a small business and said he is “thrilled” with the outcome.
“I think it’s a great result,” Vilardi said. “I hope that this will illustrate to a lot of local businesses how we could be helpful.” He referred to the “team” of elected officials that included Kaminsky, Howard Beach Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato, County Legislator Howard Kopel, former Far Rockaway Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder, who helped support the Rosens.
“Every business faces challenges and hurdles,” Vilardi said, “all local businesses should reach out to people to find some help so they can prosper, is my takeaway from this.”
While waiting for the DOT decision, the Rosens opened the mini-golf course and batting range in March as they have done since 1978. Despite a rainy April and a cooler than usual May, Marty was upbeat.
“It was a long and an arduous process,” he said, “special thanks to all our valued customers who took the time to sign our petition and left moving and supportive comments.”
After the Rosens posted an announcement of the agreement on Facebook, fans of the business also commented. “Truly great news,” wrote Woodmere resident Felice Balsam. “So glad they will be able to continue serving the community they have been an integral part of for so very long!”