By Connor Adams Sheets
The plans for the crumbling RKO Keith’s Theatre in downtown Flushing are not going to go through as easily as some area politicians have predicted, according to Community Board 7 Chairman Eugene Kelty.
The developer floated plans to nearly double the number of apartments planned for the site, from 200 to 370, during a meeting with Kelty in September, TimesLedger Newspapers reported in October.
Plans to turn the theater into a 17-story condo tower with 200 apartments, 229 parking spaces and a senior center, and to restore the landmarked lobby, were approved in 2005, when the theatre was owned by developer Shaya Boymelgreen.
Boymelgreen lost the note on the property in May 2010 when Doral Bank sold it to Thompson for $20 million amid worries about Boymelgreen’s financial woes. If Thompson goes forward with the larger number of units, he will have to go before CB 7 and get approval from the city Board of Standards and Appeals. The board’s Land Use committee plans to review the plans Jan. 24 and CB 7 expects to host a full public hearing on it Feb. 14.
The plans came back into the public spotlight Tuesday, when city Councilman Peter Koo (R-Flushing), state Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) and state Sen. Toby Stavisky announced their support for the project, sending out press releases backing Thompson’s plans.
“In the weeks ahead, Sen. Stavisky and I urge the members of Community Board 7 to give the plan serious consideration so that a piece of Flushing’s grand history can be restored and resurrected properly,” Meng said in her statement.
Over the next couple of days, Kelty said, there seemed to be a consensus among many community leaders that the project was going to be rubber-stamped by CB 7 in its current form, with 200 parking spaces and 357 units. Kelty said that was not the case, as the lack of parking near the theater, at the intersection of Northern Boulevard and Main Street, is critical.
“Everyone’s saying this is fine and dandy, but I think they should talk to me before they say it’s fine and dandy,” he said. “Everybody’s saying this is going to go flying through, but it’s not going to go flying through because we need to have a conversation about parking. We want [the project], we do, but it’s going to have restrictions to make sure it doesn’t have a major impact on parking in the area.”
The size of the proposed project has not changed, though the look likely has, Kelty said. Keeping the project the same size makes it easier for the changes to be approved, as the Port Authority and Federal Administration will not have to reconsider whether it is too big to be as close as it is to LaGuardia Airport.
In 1999, notorious developer Tommy Huang pleaded guilty to felony charges for ignoring asbestos contamination and pouring hundreds of gallons of fuel oil in the theater’s basement two decades ago. He was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and sentenced to five years’ probation.
Boymelgreen purchased the theater in 2002 and attempted to develop the long-neglected site at 137-25 Northern Blvd.
Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4538.