By The TimesLedger
The historic RKO Keith’s Theater closed in 1986. Eighteen years later the property, located at the intersection of Main Street and Northern Boulevard at the edge of downtown Flushing, remains undeveloped.
In 1985, the city landmarked the lobby of this historic building. A year later the theater closed and the property was purchased by a developer named Thomas Huang. To this day we don’t know what Huang planned to do with the property. What we do know is that Huang is a convicted criminal and that after getting caught trying to demolish the landmarked lobby, Huang did nothing with the property for 16 years. At least nothing good.
The decaying boarded-up building became an eyesore, slowing development and bringing down property values for the entire block. In 2002 Huang sold the controversial property to Boymelgreen Development, a company that plans to spend $100 million on a glass tower that will include retail space, 250 housing units and a senior center.
Unfortunately, last week Community Board 7 rejected the Boymelgreen proposal because the new building would be too large. The board should have been happy that someone had a serious plan for the space.
Downtown Flushing isn’t quaint. It’s a bustling commercial district. Who cares how big the new building is, providing it doesn’t interfere with public safety? This lot has long been the missing piece in the rebirth of downtown Flushing.
The board should be doing everything possible to expedite the redevelopment. But if the board can’t help, the least it can do I get out of the way.
The tables were turned for Rev. Donald Harrington, the president of St. John's University, who spent the week defending his use of the word “culture” when criticizing the behavior of some basketball players during an away trip to Pittsburgh. The administrator found himself caught in the telescopic sights of activists who look for every possible opportunity to be offended.
Harrington stepped into a minefield when he compared the “culture” of the St. John’s basketball team with the “culture” of the soccer team. He said, “we have a men's soccer team here at St. John’s – and I have no doubt I’m gonna go out on a limb here – I don’t think it could happen there.”
The campus quick-to-be-offended assumed that culture meant race and, since the basketball players who got in trouble were all black, Harrington was making a reference to African-American culture. How about tall people? Maybe they, too, should check to see if they have been wounded. After all the basketball players in question were tall and few soccer players are very tall.
Harrington apologized for what he came to see as a poor choice of words. Perhaps the apology was premature. It may well be that there is a culture that prevails among athletes who have the privilege of playing for elite sports programs such as St. John’s varsity basketball. Such players are heavily recruited and attend school on complete scholarships. The “culture” could just as easily exist at any university with nationally known football program. It has nothing to do with race and a great deal to do with privilege.
Harrington was also criticized for talking to the media before addressing the student body. Give the man a break. Even in a year like this when the Red Storm are the bottom dwellers of the Big East, the team is big sports news.
Harrington is not the problem. The problem is a handful of athletes who exercised remarkably bad judgment and wound up hurting their team and their school. Raising a phony race issue won’t change the truth.