City hears Keith’s case for developing theater

The city Board of Standards and Appeals is expected to rule on the $160 million overhaul of the RKO Keith's Theatre on June 28. Photo by Connor Adams Sheets
By Connor Adams Sheets

The city Board of Standards and Appeals has completed its review of the proposed $160 million redevelopment of the long-neglected RKO Keith’s Theatre in downtown Flushing.

The board is expected to rule June 28 on whether or not to approve the plans for a 17-floor, mixed-use residential building to incorporate and restore the movie house’s landmarked lobby.

The board held its second hearing on the project Tuesday morning in order to hear the answers to a number of questions about the traffic impact and economics of the project, which it asked of its developer, Patrick Thompson, at the initial May 17 hearing.

“It was another round of hearings at the BSA. The process was closed, there are no more hearings for information, no more debating the issue,” Michael Nussbaum, a spokesman for Thompson, said after the hearing. “The process goes forward. The BSA rarely votes while you’re there for discussion. They hold off until the next meeting to make a decision.”

Jeff Mulligan, executive director of the BSA, did not return a request for comment Tuesday afternoon.

The BSA received a letter last week from Community Board 7 Vice Chairman Chuck Apelian that laid out his views and those of several of his colleagues — including CB 7 Chairman Eugene Kelty — who made up a minority of CB 7 members who voted against the project when it came before the community board.

CB 7 voted to support the project by a vote of 24-10, bucking the board leadership’s opinions on the proposal, and Borough President Helen Marshall also lent her support. The BSA is the final stepping stone to full approval.

The letter discussed the cadre’s opposition to the current plan for the project, which increased the number of residential units to be included in the building, at 137-25 Northern Blvd., to 357 — far more than the 200 units CB 7 signed off on in 2005 when the project’s previous owner, developer Shaya Boymelgreen, owned it.

“We like the project, we know it has to be done, but we’re concerned about the increase in units. I started becoming concerned about traffic, parking and the larger number of people,” Kelty said. “It’s a letter saying we want the BSA to know that the minority wasn’t coming against any project there, but that we wanted the developer to be more responsible and lessen the impact on the surrounding area.”

When asked whether such letters are commonly submitted to the BSA, Nussbaum said he is no expert but that he had “never heard that before.”

Nussbaum added that he is confident the project will gain the BSA’s approval at the June 28 hearing.

“My belief is that this project is extremely important for the community and that it will go forward,” he said.

Thompson’s proposal would dedicate $8 million to fix the lobby and create a two-story, green, undulating glass curtain to display the renovated interior to passers-by. The lobby would be the gateway to a tower with 357 residential units, a senior center, 385 parking spaces and more than 12,000 square feet of retail.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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