82% rent hike could put Lawrence batting cage owner out of business

Carl MacGowan for Newsday

December 05, 2021

Originally published in Newsday on December 05, 2021.

Lawrence batting cage operator Marty Rosen is afraid he may strike out.

Rosen, who has been operating the Five Towns Mini Golf and Batting Range on Rockaway Turnpike for more than 40 years, said the state Department of Transportation, the business's landlord, wants to raise the monthly rent on the 77,000-square-foot site by 82.8%, from $6,400 to $11,700.

The rent hike, which would take effect on Jan. 1, is too much for the seasonal business, which operates from April to October, Rosen said.

"It's going to put me out of business, that's the bottom line," Rosen told Newsday on Thursday during an interview outside the batting cages. "I'm trying not to think about it, but what occasionally pops in my head [is] I don't know what I'm going to do."

Rosen, 79, of East Northport, has rented the property from the state since 1976 on a use-and-occupancy permit. The property had become available when the state shelved plans to use the site to build an extension of Nassau Expressway.

DOT spokesman Stephen Canzoneri said in an email that the proposed rent increase was based on an appraisal of the property's fair market value.

The department "regularly reevaluates permits for use and occupancy within the department’s right of way," Canzoneri wrote, adding that the Lawrence property and similar locations "were acquired and are retained for the future benefit of the traveling public," though the agency has no plans to use the site.

Rosen said the last rent hike was four years ago, in 2017, by 35%.

Rosen said he and his business partners in 1977 poured $40,000 into building the batting cages and another $110,000 to build the miniature golf course in 1990.

The batting range opened in 1978 and has hosted stars such as Mets 1986 World Series champions Darryl Strawberry, Ray Knight, Mookie Wilson and Howard Johnson; Baseball Hall of Famer Eddie Murray; and former Cubs and Mets slugger Dave Kingman. The business also has paintball and an arcade.

Rosen has sought help from local elected officials, including state Sen. Todd Kaminsky, who told Newsday he had written to DOT officials, asking them to decrease the rent hike.

"We're going to bat for him," Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) said in a phone interview. "I just think it’s a bad situation overall when the government runs a small business out of business."

Rosen said it's tough enough as it is to pay his current rent.

"We operate for six months, so that means effectively that’s the only income we draw," he said. "What that means is we’re paying $12,000 a month for the property."

The self-described baseball fanatic said running the business keeps him involved in the sport, recalling the time he organized a boycott of Mets games after the club traded future Hall of Famer Tom Seaver in 1977.

"That's how much the game is embedded in my soul," Rosen said. "I want to keep going."