R.K.O. Keith’s Owner Gets Probation – QNS.com

R.K.O. Keith’s Owner Gets Probation

Amid bitter recriminations from Queens politicos, Flushing’s real estate" public enemy number one," — Tommy Huang — escaped a prison sentence last week after a State Supreme Court judge sentenced him to five years of probation and a $5,000 fine.
The decision on Feb. 23 by Judge John B. Latella in State Supreme Court set off a chain reaction of angry faxes and telephone calls as Flushing’s political and community leaders challenged the verdict.
"I am disappointed there was no prison sentence," thundered State Senator Leonard P. Stavisky. "He has systematically destroyed a landmarked theater, proving that ‘crime does pay."
Assemblyman Brian M. McLaughlin agreed, charging that "five years of probation for Huang is clearly a disservice to justice."
Sonya Sanchez, a spokesperson for the New York State Attorney General’s Office which brought the charges, issued the following statement:
"We respectfully disagree with Judge Latella’s decision. But we weren’t surprised because he had indicated earlier that jail time might not be indicated."
Borough President Claire Shulman had no comment on Huang’s sentence, but expressed regret that no "creative way had been found to reclaim the property."
Adrian Joyce, president of Community Board 7 in Flushing, called the Court’s decision "a travesty. It’s that simple. Huang has ruined the theater. I’ve seen the damage and I know. He should have been sentenced to do time."
In delivering the sentence, Judge Latella indicated that the probation report was favorable. In addition to the probation and fine, Huang was ordered to clean up petroleum and asbestos that had destroyed the architectural treasures in the landmarked RKO Keith’s Theater.
The Judge adjourned a related case of Yeh Realty until March 2.
Latella did agree to a provision by the Attorney General’s Office for a status report in 12 months to determine if the theater has been cleaned up.
On Jan.11, Attorney General Eliot Spitzer obtained a guilty plea in the case after evidence that the Theater on Northern Blvd. was soaked with oil when a heating tank in an adjacent alleyway seeped through the theater’s walls.
Huang, 45, had pleaded guilty to two charges related to the oil spill — offering a false instrument for filing, and endangering the public health, safety or the environment. Both charges, E-felonies, are punishable by one to three years in jail or five years probation.
The RKO Keith’s was declared an historic landmark by the New York City Landmark Preservation Commission. It opened in the 1920’s as a vaudeville and movie theater. Such stars as Jack Benny and the Marx Brothers graced its stage.
Huang bought the theater in the early 1990’s and initially showed foreign language films there. He subsequently closed the theater and submitted plans to convert the building into a shopping the center. The spill was discovered during a building closure inspection by the NYC Fire Dept.

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