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Marshall approves plan to redevelop RKO Keith’s

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Borough President Helen Marshall has officially lent her support to a developer’s $160 million plan to redevelop the crumbling RKO Keith’s Theatre in downtown Flushing.

Marshall submitted a written recommendation March 14 stating she believes the city Board of Standards & Appeals should approve the proposal to transform the space into a 17-floor, mixed-use residential building.

Michael Nussbaum, a spokesman for the developer, Patrick Thompson, said he expects the final BSA ruling on whether the project can move forward by the end of April and if approved, demolition of the existing structure to make room for the new building’s construction should begin during the fourth quarter of this year.

“The developer is pleased that the borough president saw the importance of the project and I know from the comments during the hearing as well as prior discussions with the borough president and others how important this project is to the next stage of development in Flushing,” Nussbaum said. “People expect that once the RKO is fully developed, that whole section of Main Street north of Northern Boulevard will hopefully have a renaissance of development.”

Thompson’s project would dedicate $8 million to fix the landmarked lobby and build a two-story, green, undulating glass curtain to display the renovated interior to people passing by the site, at 137-25 Northern Blvd. The lobby would become the public gateway to a new 17-story tower with 357 residential units, a senior center, 385 parking spaces and more than 12,000 square feet of retail.

Marshall offered only one recommended change to the plans. She said in her formal recommendation that Thompson should agree “to outfit the senior center space with bathrooms and provide a fully equipped kitchen with stoves and refrigerators, finished classrooms, dining areas, and other spaces as needed.”

A 2005 proposal by previous owner Shaya Boymelgreen that Community Board 7 approved would have included 200 residential units and a senior center, accompanied by 229 parking spaces. That project fell through when Boymelgreen’s finances faltered, and in May 2010 Thompson bought the note on the property from Doral Bank for $20 million. Boymelgreen had owned the theater since 2002, and before his proposal stalled he had agreed to the request to include bathrooms, a kitchen and the other amenities Marshall is now pushing for Thompson to accept.

In 1999, notorious developer Tommy Huang pleaded guilty to felony charges for ignoring asbestos contamination and pouring hundreds of gallons of fuel oil into the theater’s basement two decades ago. He was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and sentenced to five years’ probation.

CB 7 voted 24-10 last month to support Thompson’s plan.

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

Updated 10:53 am, October 12, 2011
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