By Bill Parry
The Sunnyside Center Cinemas, the neighborhood’s only movie theater, was expecting to close down Jan. 4 but has been granted a reprieve.
Property owner John Ciafone, an Astoria-based attorney, said he reached out to theater owner Rudy Persaud in an effort to keep the cinema open on an interim basis.
“We went to him and offered to let him stay open longer because our plans are in the future,” Ciafone said. “We’ll give him more time. We might as well keep it open for the people of Sunnyside until we’re more certain of our timeline.”
Persaud could not be reached for comment.
Ciafone bought the 16,000-square-foot property on the northwest corner of Queens Boulevard when the Dime Savings Bank put it up for sale in 2012. He said when the Bloomberg administration rezoned Sunnyside and Woodside, he jumped in without having a plan to beat a land grab.
Ciafone, who was born and raised in Astoria, believes that Sunnyside is poised to have a real estate boom now that Long Island City has reached “critical mass” with residential construction.
Dime Savings Bank had a branch at the location that has since closed as did a dentist office. What remains is the movie theater and PJ Horgan’s right next door, a tavern that has operated at the location under different owners since the 1950s.
“They’re staying because we don’t need to take them out because they occupy such a small place,” Ciafone said. “It’s different with the theater because that’s the majority of the property. The reality is to build they would have to leave so we can demolish the ground level and put parking underneath.”
Ciafone is planning to build a medium-size residential building with ground floor retail.
“We’re trying to find the right partner in developing the property, someone with knowledge of affordable housing,” Ciafone said. “We’re not looking to put in condominiums like some are saying. We’d like to do affordable housing that would benefit the neighborhood.”
The future development will have another benefit for the community, according to Ciafone.
“That underground parking lot will be a huge plus in this neighborhood,” he said. “Each resident will have parking so they won’t take up any parking spaces on the street. Around here, that’s big.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr[email protected]local.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.