FAA gives green light to RKO Keith’s revamp

FAA gives green light to RKO Keith’s revamp
Rendering courtesy Studio V
By Joe Anuta

The federal government has decided that the proposed renovation of the RKO Keith’s Theatre in downtown Flushing would not pose a hazard to planes landing and taking off from LaGuardia Airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration declared the proposed development safe in December, and without any further appeals that declaration will become final at the end of the month.

Developer Patrick Thompson was cleared by the city Board of Standards and Appeals over the summer to build a 162-foot, mixed-use building on Main Street while incorporating the beloved and landmarked RKO Keith’s Theatre lobby into the design.

But on Sept. 23, the FAA issued Thompson’s lawyer, Howard Goldman, a letter saying the structure might interfere with the airport’s safe operation and that an investigation was needed.

That investigation has been concluded by the FAA’s Obstruction Evaluation Group.

On Dec. 13, the group sent a letter to Goldman clearing the proposed development of posing any hazard.

“This aeronautical study revealed that the structure would nave no substantial adverse effect on the safe and efficient utilization of the navigable airspace by aircraft or on the operation of air navigation facilities,” Sheri Edgett-Baron, manager of the group, said in the letter.

The green light means that Thompson will begin construction as soon as possible, according to spokesman Michael Nussbaum.

“We are very confident that we will get the final statements from the FAA,” he said.

Once the declaration is made final, Thompson hopes to begin the construction process as soon as possible, Nussbaum said.

The delay in construction came after the FAA had previously expressed concern that the building would be tall enough to present a physical obstruction to planes landing and taking off. The agency also was worried that the power required to run the building could create an electromagnetic interference with an aircraft’s navigation system.

The Dec. 13 letter vindicated the plans for the development, but not before a lengthy and thorough letter of objection to the structure was sent by a man named Christian Kellberg, who lives in Virgina.

The FAA refuted all the objections raised in Kellberg’s letter, but the Dec. 13 missive was still not the final word.

Anyone opposed to the FAA’s ruling has until the end of the day Thursday to submit a petition against the ruling.

If a petition is received, the FAA will not make the determination final until it is resolved.

If no petition is received, the determination will become final Jan. 22 and will remain valid until June 13, 2013.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.