Park Deli, Greedy Landlord or Normal Neighborhood Changes?

Exterior of Park Deli 209 Nassau - Photo Julia Moak
Outside Park Deli  Image: Julia Moak

As New York City, and North Brooklyn in particular, go through massive socioeconomic changes, it’s become very common to hear cries of outrage about gentrification. Since the infamous rezoning in the mid-aughts, Greenpoint/Williamsburg has seen ever-rising rents and an influx of residents (myself included, I arrived here in 2009 from my family home of northeast Queens). This trickles down into situations like the one occurring with the Park Deli (209 Nassau Ave). But sometimes, the story isn’t a “greedy landlord” or “gentrification,” but rather a situation much more complex and completely normal.

Hildegard and Rudolph Daempfle receiving the Borough of Brooklyn Award in 1987  Image: Thomas Handschiegel

There’s no doubt that Park Deli is a Greenpoint institution. Opened in 1931 by German-American William Mullenbrock, the deli has served reasonably priced German-style food ever since. What was Mullenbrock Deli changed hands in the 1950s, and at some point, acquired the name “Park Deli.”

Image: Thomas Handschiegel

Last week, the neighborhood got word that Krystyna Godawa, the current owner and occupant of Park Deli, was being asked to vacate the spot. The landlord in this situation, Hildegard Daempfle, is the former owner of the Park Deli herself. Her and her husband, Rudolph, ran the deli before buying the property in 1986 with a $40,000 mortgage. They did turn the deli over to their son Rudy as they got older. Rudy handed it over in 2000 to a former deli employee, and then it went on to Krystyna about a decade ago.

Like that rezoning, property taxes in this city have skyrocketed, further complicating both commercial and residential rents. The rent Hildegard allowed as rent for a decade is simply unsustainable for the property. When it came time to renew the lease, she did what any landlord would do who cannot make ends meet and doesn’t want to sell: she asked for more money. In fact, the rent being asked is about $20 less per square foot than the average for that side of McGuinness Boulevard. Hildegard knows all too well how hard it is to have a small business in New York City, and she also is fond of Park Deli for her own personal reasons. Any potential new tenants will have deep ties to the neighborhood, and will hopefully be keeping the space as a deli, not anything else. While this is a very unfortunate situation, it is one that happens.

About Siobhan Wallace

Siobhan Wallace is a freelance writer & editor. She co-founded the food blog Blondie & Brownie in 2008 and co-authored "New York à la Cart: Recipes and Stories from the Big Apple's Best Food Trucks" (Running Press, 2013).

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