By Connor Adams Sheets
Shaya Boymelgreen, the owner of the crumbling RKO Keith’s Theatre in downtown Flushing, has fallen on tough times, much like the once-grand movie palace in the heart of the neighborhood.
Earlier this decade he was a top-flight New York City developer, building thousands of apartments and reveling in the successes the housing boom brought with it.
But now his numerous holdings and companies have come under fire from a wide range of groups, including his own unhappy tenants, aggressive Brooklyn preservationists and most recently, according to court records, even the council of a West Bank town that sued two of his companies for allegedly committing war crimes.
The Israeli-born businessman’s company, Boymelgreen Developers, maintains it plans to redevelop the theatre site despite claims by Doral Bank, which holds the mortgage on the property, that it is in negotiations to sell the $20 million note on the property.
Repeated calls to Boymelgreen Developers requesting comment were not returned.
Shaya Boymelgreen has been in headlines for years as his companies have clashed with city tenants, landowners and American companies.
But earlier this year Boymelgreen, 58, weathered some of the gravest accusations yet, from leaders of the West Bank town of Bil’in who filed a suit in Quebec Superior Court in Canada alleging that two of Boymelgreen’s Canada-based companies, Green Park International and Green Mount International, had violated a section of the Geneva Conventions by building housing in the Palestinian town.
The suit, which seeks the land in question rather than monetary damages, contends the companies built housing in the town despite the fact that thegovernments of both Palestine and most Western nations consider such construction to be in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, established in 1949 in order to establish protocol for protecting civilians during wartime.
“We want to show that people who come and profit from Palestinian suffering will lose,” village council secretary Mohammed Khatib said, according to the Montreal Times.
On Sept. 18, Quebec Superior Court Judge Louis-Paul Cullen granted the defense’s request to dismiss the suit, which was filed in June, stating the High Court of Justice in Israel, not the Canadian court, has jurisdiction in the matter.
In the wake of his boom years, Boymelgreen had triumphed over one of the many problems he faces, but many still remain.
Israeli business news publication Globes reported in April that Boymelgreen Capital — a Tel Aviv-based real estate company which Boymelgreen created in 2006 — was unable to make payments on its debt, including a loan worth 600 million Israeli New Shekels, or about $146 million.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. in July ordered LibertyPointe Bank, which Boymelgreen founded in 2005, to halt some of its business, including commercial real estate loans, and last month was given 30 days to raise money, according to the New York Times.
He is involved in disputes with residents over expensive repairs and evictions at some of his New York properties and is facing possible eviction from his headquarters in Brooklyn, according to court documents.
A cadre of anti-development Brooklyn residents has opposed many of his plans for the borough over the years, protesting projects, including the Park Slope Gardens condominium complex and River Front in DUMBO, and running a campaign against his projects entitled “Brooklyn beware! Shaya is coming.”
Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.