By Jeremy Walsh
The Polk Theatre, located at the corner of 93rd Street and 37th Avenue, had become an adult theater before closing in 2006. The building was demolished sometime in February. Property owner Henry Zheng now hopes to construct a six-story, mixed-use building on the site, but his plans have been challenged by the city.According to a Village Voice article published shortly before the Polk closed, the theater was run down, but many of its art deco features were intact.”That theater was my whole life,” said Harold Gussin, who owned and operated the theater for 45 years.Gussin, who lives on Long Island, said he sold the Polk in 2006 when he became too ill to run it. “I put my whole life in there,” he said. “Now I walk the floor all night because I worked nights. That was a good theater.”Now the future of the property is uncertain. A stop-work order was placed on the site March 13 due to the storage and use of acetylene without an FDNY permit, DOB records show, and the latest site plans were rejected by a DOB inspector the same day.”The Buildings Department raised several objections, such as failure to indicate adequate egress and failure to verify compliance with accessibility requirements,” said a DOB spokeswoman. Zheng will likely resubmit a revised plan, she said.The 65,000-square-foot structure would include 32 apartments with first-floor retail and 83 parking spaces in the cellar and sub-cellar.According to a 2006 survey by Jeff Gottlieb, president of the Central Queens Historical Association, seven vintage movie houses in Queens have been torn down or altered for other uses since he first catalogued them in 1992.Gottlieb said the Polk opened in 1938 with 598 seats. He said it was one of a number of modest movie houses that popped up in Queens during the Great Depression.”Instead of being movie palaces, they were smaller in size, smaller in stature, more functional in use rather than having all sorts of artistic reminders of the past,” he said.Architect Charles Sandblom designed the Polk, Gottlieb said, as well as the Drake on Queens Boulevard, the Bombay Cinema in Fresh Meadows, the Fair in East Elmhurst, Kew Gardens Cinema, the Hillside in Jamaica and the Lefferts in Ozone Park. Members on the Internet forum cinematreasures.com said the Polk had been showing adult movies along with late-run feature films since the 1960s.Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.