There's a lament on the jukebox at the Flamingo Restaurant these days, and it's not a song title.

Fliers have been taped to the wall-mounted consoles at each booth, bearing news that the diner's omelettes are numbered. The Flamingo is to be torn down sometime next year to make way for a development project.

The Flamingo is a local institution of sorts, a place where any police officer, construction worker or night owl can go for coffee, french fries or a piece of pie 24 hours a day every day but Christmas and New Year's. Those without a home can take refuge from a cold night without even ordering.

The diner's starkly lit, no-nonsense decor, gruffly friendly staff and exterior sign featuring a pink flamingo that glows like a beacon of kitsch give the diner a romantic appeal all its own.

"It's the soul of Jersey City," said Shandor Hassan, 34, a sculptor and photographer who lives in the city's nearby warehouse district.

But city officials say the Flamingo stands in the way of progress.

A road widening is planned to keep traffic flowing smoothly from a booming corner of the financial district known as the Colgate Redevelopment Area. Water on two sides and the historic Paulus Hook neighborhood on the third side make the diner's street "the only way out" of the redevelopment area, said Bob Cotter, the city's planning director.

"When it's all said and done, we're talking about 25,000 employees coming here," Cotter said. "Colgate is the economic engine not only of Hudson County but of the northeast corner of New Jersey, as is the whole waterfront."

The Flamingo's plight is similar to that of other diners across the country. Despite the recent nostalgia, the American Diner Museum in Providence, R.I., figures the number of diners has fallen from a high of 5,000 or 6,000 to about 2,400 in recent years, many of them struggling against fast-food restaurants.

Jersey City is not the only place in the state where revitalization carries a cost. Older structures have been sacrificed to redevelopment efforts in Trenton, Camden, Elizabeth and elsewhere. In Newark, a proposed downtown sports arena would require razing several city blocks.

Tod A. Marder, a professor of architectural history and chairman of the art history department at Rutgers University, said disappearances like that of the Flamingo are not surprising but can be counterproductive to an area's vitality and long-term economic development.

"What we do know about modern development is that large, moneymaking operations are generally preferred over the preservation of our cultural heritage," Marder said. "Very rarely do we take a long-range view."

The Colgate area is a dozen square blocks across the Hudson River from Lower Manhattan, with 2.5 million square feet of office space housing about 10,000 workers, and another 3.5 million square feet under construction or approved. Thousands of Goldman Sachs workers will occupy a single building still under construction -- but already the state's tallest.

Cotter, the city planner, said a 15-foot sidewalk and a right-turn lane are needed at the diner's corner to handle pedestrian and automobile traffic.

Stan Eason, a spokesman for Mayor Glenn Cunningham, noted that, as a councilman in the 1980s, Cunningham opposed a similar plan. But, Eason added, "the Jersey City waterfront looked a little bit different then," and the mayor now supports the widening.

The Flamingo occupies the base of a Victorian walk-up dwarfed by surrounding skyscrapers. Its owner, Andy Diakos, said the building dates to 1848, when it was built as a restaurant and hotel. He opened the restaurant in 1968, eight years after immigrating to New Jersey from Greece, then bought the building several years later.

The city has offered him $1.5 million for the property, although Eason put the figure at about $2 million. But money is not the issue, Diakos said. His customers and 16 employees are. "This is my life. I'm down here 43 years," said Diakos, 59, who is contemplating legal action. "I don't want to move."

Among those sorry to see the diner go would be workers restoring the damaged PATH tunnel linking the Exchange Place and World Trade Center stops. Two dozen workers were there for a recent midnight lunch break. "This time of night, this is the only place," said a worker, Ron Mitchell, 49, of Bayonne, N.J.

If the Flamingo does pass into history, more than just bricks and linoleum will go with it, Marder said. "When an old building is also part of the cohesive social fabric, I think we lose double."

Andy Diakos, left, owner of the Flamingo Restaurant in Jersey City, chats with customer Allen King. The city is planning to demolish the 35-year-old eatery as part of a street widening project. Officials say the diner stands in the way of progress. Customers defend it. "It's the soul of Jersey City," says Shandor Hassan, 34, a sculptor and photographer.