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CB 7 panel OKs develop plan for RKO Keith’s

A proposal to redevelop the site of the deteriorating RKO Keith’s Theatre on Northern Boulevard in Flushing was scheduled to go before Community Board 7 Feb. 14, when the board will vote on whether or not a 17-story, mixed-use project should be built there.

The meeting of the full board follows the Jan. 24 vote by the board Zoning Committee to support condo developer Patrick Thompson’s upgraded plan for the site, which includes 157 more apartments than CB 7 originally voted to approve in 2005, when the site was owned by developer Shaya Boymelgreen.

The Zoning Committee voted 13-3 with one abstention to approve the proposal, which includes 357 one- and two-bedroom apartments, a senior center and commercial space. The plan would also preserve the project’s landmarked lobby.

The key concern about the project revolves around its higher density, or the number of apartments, and the impact the increase will have on parking in the heavily trafficked area.

Under the plan the committee approved last month, the project would have between 360 and 385 parking spaces, depending on the amount of space the developer needs for machinery.

The proposal the full board approved in 2005 included 200 larger apartments and a senior center, accompanied by 229 parking spaces. That plan fulfilled what CB 7 Chairman Eugene Kelty calls “100 percent parking,” meaning there was a space for every car the project was expected to bring to the site.

To provide that level of parking in a 357-apartment project with commercial space and a senior center would require 425 parking spots, Kelty said.

“The Zoning Committee met and we talked about the density we’re concerned about,” Kelty said. “We were talking about the parking, and I don’t think [some CB 7 members] realized that the parking and density are both parts of the same issue,” he said. “The only way to reduce the parking number to make it fit is to reduce the density.”

Kelty, CB 7 Vice Chairman Chuck Apelian and board member Frank Macchio were the three dissenting votes because they were concerned about the increased number of apartments, insufficient parking and the effects those concerns would have.

“We kept trying to fight to get him 425 parking spots — that’s when the numbers hit me that that’s high density,” Kelty said. “[Thompson’s] answer is that ‘the return for me is not enough if we lower the density,’ and I said, ‘Send me the numbers and let’s see what the return is and then we can make the determination of whether it works.’”

The full board will consider that question when the developer presents the plan to them Feb. 14. City Councilman Peter Koo (R-Flushing), state Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) and state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) announced Jan. 11 that they support a version of the plan similar to the current one.

If CB 7 approves it, the proposal will head to the city Board of Standards and Appeals and possibly the city Landmarks Preservation Commission for final approval.

Thompson bought the note on the property in May 2010 from Doral Bank for $20 million amid worries about Boymelgreen’s financial woes. Boymelgreen purchased the theater in 2002 and attempted to develop the long-neglected site at 137-25 Northern Blvd.

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.

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

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