Notorious developer Tommy Huang and the owner of a day care center at Klein Farm struck a deal in Queens Civil Court last week, allowing the business to operate rent free for the next three months in exchange for vacating the property by the end of November, about three months before the lease was set to expire in February.
The case has been closely followed by area residents concerned that Huang will sell the property to a new owner who will try to develop the two-acre site on 73rd Avenue, the last privately owned farm in the city until 2003.
Huang angered Fresh Meadows community leaders in 2004 with plans to build 18 to 22 two-story homes on the property. He became especially known throughout Queens after he was convicted in 1999 of letting hundreds of gallons of heating oil leak into the ground at the landmarked RKO Keith’s Theatre in Flushing.
Li Chen, owner of Apple Tree Day Care on the two-acre Klein Farm, said she was pleased the case would not go to court, where it would have landed if the two parties had not come to an agreement before their case was heard by a housing judge in Queens Civil Court last Thursday.
“Of course, I’m not very happy because I have a lot to explain to the parents and the community about moving,” said Chen, who expects she will relocate the center in Bayside.
The deal comes after Chen was given an eviction notice April 1 and told to leave the property by June 30. Chen’s lawyer, Yi Lin, said there was no basis for eviction because his client had signed a two-year lease in March 2008 that stipulates Chen may only be forced to leave if the land is sold. Audrey Realty, the Flushing-based company owned by Huang, did not present documentation that the land had been sold to Chen, whose day care has about 35 children.
Huang is currently negotiating a sale with Robert Frischman, president of JDF Realty, which is representing Fresh Meadows Jewish Development, according to Chen and state Assemblyman Mark Weprin (D-Little Neck). Frischman confirmed they are involved in negotiations but did not provide further comment.
Fresh Meadows Jewish Development may purchase the farm for $5.6 million, according to Lin.
While the farm’s sale has not been solidified, Chen said she thought it was best for her to accept the deal that would allow her to pay no rent and move out by Nov. 30 because her rent would rise soon after. Craig Zim, the attorney representing Audrey Realty, also said he was “satisfied.”
“The best case is a settled case,” Zim said. “The judicial system is clogged up enough that if we come to terms and save a costly trial, that’s a good thing.”
Legislators and Community Board 8 members have been keeping a watchful eye on the potential sale of Klein Farm, and Weprin recently wrote a letter to Frischman cautioning him to study the strict development regulations an owner would need to adhere to in order to build anything on the site.
Because the farm is located in the Fresh Meadows Special Planned Community Preservation District, any development plans would need to go through a rigorous approval process. Community members have said development would not be tolerated on the farm.
“They said they’re aware of the restrictions on the property and they’ll comply with them,” Weprin said of Frischman. “I’ll stand with the community and will use any clout I have to make sure nothing goes into that property.”
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson
©2009 Community News Group
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