By Tien-Shun Lee
“The farmstand wasn't making any money, and it was a valuable piece of property. I said I have to get rid of this before I end up sitting on it,” said John Klein Sr., from his home in Jericho, N.Y. on Monday.
Klein said he decided to sell the property to whoever offered the most money, and he did not know anything about the buyer or what he plans to do with the property.
“I got my money and I'm done,” Klein said. “I don't know where (the buyer) lives or what he does. All I know is he had the money. That's the name of the game, and I wish him luck.”
According to the property deed and another legal document posted on the Department of Finance Web site, Audrey Realty Corp. at 36-09 Main St. purchased the Klein Farm properties at 194-15 and 194-23 73rd Ave. for $4.3 million on Nov. 4.
Audrey Realty Corp. has the same address in Flushing as Tommy Huang's development group.
The buyer secured a $2.5 million mortgage from Klein that is supposed to be paid in monthly installments of $20,833 with an interest rate of 10 percent per year, according to a legal document drafted by attorney John Wolf of Hauppauge, N.Y.
The legal documents for the purchase were signed by John Huang, the vice president of Audrey Realty Corp.
A woman who answered the phone at Tommy Huang's Flushing office said she could not confirm that the property had been bought by a member of Tommy Huang's family and that the company was not interested in commenting on the purchase.
Klein Farm was the last family-owned working farm in the city until the summer of 2001, when the Kleins stopped working the 2.2-acre farm because it was no longer profitable to grow and sell the produce.
In 2001, Tommy Huang offered to purchase Klein Farm for the same price, but he rescinded his offer in March 2002 after his plan to convert the land into a housing complex with 22 two-family homes was vehemently opposed by Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis) and members of the Klein Farm Task Force, a group of civic leaders formed to preserve the historic site.
Tommy Huang was convicted in 1999 of spilling oil and ignoring asbestos contamination in the basement of Flushing's historic RKO Keith's Theater, which he owned and wanted to develop into a shopping mall.
“I find this very disturbing and I think it's going to be a little bit of a war,” Weprin said. “We'll get the Klein Farm Task Force up and running again. I think we're ready to fight them.”
Weprin said so far no applications have been filed with the City Planning Commission to develop the property.
“We can't fight them if we don't know what they're going to do, but I can tell you right now, I have no problem being pro-active and trying to get the community involved again,” Weprin said.
Since 1974, Klein Farm has been zoned in a special preservation district where only 20 percent of land can be developed without getting special approval from the City Council's Land Use Committee and other community groups.
Jim Gallagher, the president of the Fresh Meadows Civic Association, said he was shocked when he learned about the sale, especially since Weprin had been planning to hold meetings between community leaders and prospective buyers of the farm last October.
Gallagher said he noticed that the windows of the farmhouse were boarded up a few months ago, but he thought that was to prevent looting.
“It's going to be a big loss to the community,” Gallagher said of the sale. “People used to come from all over to buy their fruits and their farm products, and the young people over at John Bowne High School used the farm like an extension of their agricultural curriculum. This will definitely change the character of the neighborhood.”
Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by e-mail at email@example.com, or call 718-229-0300, ext. 155.