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Community Turns Out To Block Klein Farm Sale To Convicted Developer – QNS.com

Community Turns Out To Block Klein Farm Sale To Convicted Developer

Community leaders massed outside the venerable Klein Farm in Fresh Meadows on Tuesday to protest the sale of the oldest working farm in the City to a convicted Flushing land developer.
Why does Flushings "Public Enemy Number One" want to acquire the oldest working farm in the City? That was on the minds of a half dozen Fresh Meadows community leaders and neighbors who assembled outside the two-acre Klein Farm on 73 Ave., a landmark facility that has been operating since 1898.
The gathering was called by City Councilmember David Weprin to block plans by convicted developer Thomas Huang of Flushing to buy the property from the Klein family which has owned the property since the late 1890s.
"Were here today," Weprin said, "to discourage Huang from exploiting this property for some commercial purpose."
Weprin told a gathering of community leaders that he has received negative feedback on Huangs plan to acquire the property. He said that Huangs conviction for environmental crimes including destruction of the RKO Keiths Theater in Flushing was a "great source of concern" to the community.
Huang was convicted for "knowingly permitting hundreds of gallons of heating oil to spill into the theater basement during July 1996," according to state investigators. He also allegedly lied to the Fire Dept. about improper removal of asbestos from the site. In 1999, Huang pled guilty to two felony charges in State Supreme Court. He was put on probation for five years and ordered to clean up the theater.
Meanwhile, State Assemblyman Brian M. McLaughlin took Huang to task for his efforts to buy the farm.
"Time and time again," he said, "Thomas Huang has proven to be Public Enemy Number One, showing no regard for anyone or anything but his wallet. I have no doubt that his purchase of property anywhere, including the apparent purchase of Klein Farms in Fresh Meadows, will be as damaging to the community as the RKO Keith fiasco was to Flushing."
Officials who have been denied a meeting by the Klein family are unclear about what Huang plans to do if he acquires the farm.
"Its zoned as a preservation district and the law states that the property must be 80 percent open lands and 20 percent assigned for housing," Weprin said.
The Councilman said he would be organizing a demonstration outside of Huangs Flushing offices in the next week to persuade the developer from destroying the farm property for a commercial development. He also indicated that he would be meeting with Huangs zoning lawyer, Sheldon Lobel in an effort to learn what Huang plans to do with the property.
Weprin said the contract between Klein and Huang was about to be signed.
Both Huang and Lobel did not respond to calls from The Queens Courier.
Members of the community invited to join Weprin at Tuesdays meeting were unanimous in their opposition to development of the Klein farm.
"I can see this beautiful farm from the window of my apartment," said Steven Karpp. "Over the years it has been exciting to watch a working farm. Its horrible to think that it could be turned into a commercial entity."
Maria De Innocentiis of the Utopia Estates Civic Assoc., said she wanted the historic property properly maintained.
"Were concerned about this land developer," she said. "We want to know why he wants to acquire this farm because it is illegal to build there."
Jeff Gottlieb, a member of Weprins staff and a local historian, sad the farm produces herbs, cucumbers, celery, corn, turnips and rutabaga and is the last remaining working farm in New York City.

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