Editorial: Sue you later

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The College Point Multiplex.

The Loews Bay Terrace Theater.

The Regal Kaufman Astoria Theater.

These theaters have several things in common. Each one is a multiplex, with as many as 14 screens. Each appears to be a financial success. Each is located on a commercial boulevard in Queens, not far from residential neighborhoods. And each theater has thus far avoided becoming a hotbed of truancy and criminal activity.

Why then does a small but noisy minority in Springfield Gardens insist that a proposed multiplex cinema on a commercial boulevard will destroy the quality of life in a southeast Queens community? In a lawsuit filed in federal court, Democratic District Leader Cynthia Jenkins argues, "It is a fact that crime follows multiplex theaters, and if a multiplex theater is built in Springfield Gardens, N.Y., crime indeed however will follow."

In Astoria, College Point and Bayside, people do not find it necessary to commit a felony when they gather at the multiplex. Ms. Jenkins appears to imply that people in her neighborhood cannot go to a movie without engaging in mayhem. Seems to us that Jenkins is insulting the very people whose cause she claims to champion.

Jenkins suit alleges that the proposed theater would violate the civil rights of the community living near the theater. (It's hard to imagine a more frivolous abuse of the phrase "civil rights.") The suit claims that the developer, Forest City Ratner, has ignored the concerns of the community.

The truth is that the developer has made an effort to address the concerns of the community, although it was under no legal obligation to do so. The site in question is zoned for commercial use and there is no legal reason why it cannot be used for a cinema multiplex. The people who built or bought homes near the site had to know that it was zoned for commercial use. They have no right to tell Forest City Ratner how this property should be used.

It gets worse. The Jenkins group is also asking for $15 million in punitive damages from each defendant in this case. Let's see if we have this right. A group of businessmen want to build a theater on their own commercial property and Jenkins thinks they should abandon their plans and write a big check to the plaintiffs in this case. It boggles the mind.

It is small wonder that Jenkins and Co. have failed to win the support of any of the area's elected officials. The only thing close to official support comes from Sheila Pecoraro, the president of the 105th Precinct Council. We note that the proposed theater will actually be located in the 113th Precinct.

Like the proverbial empty barrel, Jenkins has succeeded in making a lot of noise with her crusade. However, like the suit filed in federal court, there is little of substance in this crusade.

Updated 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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