RKO Keith’s plan is up for review again 1

The neglected RKO Keith’s Theatre on Northern Boulevard in Flushing is set for a major redevelopment if the owner can get waivers from the pre-approved plans.

The owner of the dilapidated RKO Keith’s Theatre in Downtown Flushing will go before Community Board 7 next month seeking a waiver from the previously approved plans to develop the site into condominiums.

CB 7’s decision is the first step before the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals makes the final ruling.

Jerry Karlik, who heads JK Equities, the developer who bought the Northern Boulevard site in 2013, needs the waiver before he can proceed with construction. He wants to decrease the number of condominiums from 357 to 269; decrease underground parking from 327 to 252 spaces and increase the height of the building by 15 feet for mechanical equipment.

The most controversial change involves an already-approved undulating glass curtain entrance. Karlik wants to redesign the front to provide views of the landmarked lobby.

But Chuck Apelian, chairman of CB 7’s Land Use Committee and vice chairman of the board, said Tuesday that changing the facade plan “might be a point of contention” with the board because the glass curtain is such an integral part of the original plan.

Apelian doesn’t see any problem with the extra 15-foot height since the Port Authority has already agreed to it. Buildings cannot be constructed too high in Flushing because of nearby LaGuardia Airport. The Keith’s project calls for a 17-story building on top of the 87-year-old movie house.

Apelian considers the other changes relatively minor and noted that a proposed senior center is still part of the plan as a community facility.

The property has changed hands several times over the last few years. It was first purchased by Thomas Huang in 1987, who closed the theater and wanted to convert it into a shopping mall.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission, meanwhile, landmarked the ticket booth and lobby. When Huang’s plans were foiled by the LPC, he refused to improve the theater and allowed it to deteriorate over the years.

Huang also partially destroyed the twin sweeping staircases in the lobby and in 1999 was found guilty of environmental crimes there for allowing a basement oil spill to go undetected.

Huang sold the site in 2002 to Shaya Boymelgreen, whose plans were approved by the city, but he ran out of money and had to find another buyer. The theater then went to Patrick Thompson, who sold it to Karlik for $30 million.

Restoring the landmarked areas are expected to cost more than $6 million. No price tag has been given on the total project.

Karlik, who grew up in Flushing, now lives in Roslyn, LI and his office is in Port Washington. He told the Chronicle that his firm has had much experience in rehabilitating landmarked structures, including the Rocket Building in Jersey City, two in Chicago and one in Baltimore.

The Land Use Committee will meet on Feb. 24 at 7:30 p.m. at the Union Plaza Care Center at 33-23 Union St. in Flushing to discuss the waiver. The meeting is open to the public. CB 7’s hearing on the matter will be held at its next monthly meeting on March 9 at the same location at 7 p.m.


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