Today’s news:

RKO theater developer mulls expanding housing proposal

The developer who bought the landmarked RKO Keith’s Theatre in downtown Flushing for $20 million has floated plans to nearly double the number of apartments planned for the site, Community Board 7 Chairman Eugene Kelty said this week.

Kelty said he met last month with ´╗┐developer Patrick Thompson, who has built a number of condo projects in Manhattan, to discuss his intentions for the property, which Kelty and other sources say include possibly increasing the number of apartments from 200 to as many as 370.´╗┐

“That was his original request and he was feeling me out to see what I think about it and I said, ‘OK,’ but it has to go to [the CB 7 Zoning Committee] first. I wouldn’t want him to spend millions of dollars before speaking with the committee,” he said. “I said you can build as of right as anyone can, but if you deviate from that you have to open up the variance to change that.”

If the variance needs to be modified, Thompson would have to go back before CB 7 and get approval from the city Board of Standards and Appeals. An increase in the number of apartments would probably also require the 389,000-square-foot building to offer more parking, Kelty said, pointing out that the community needs a chance to have input if the project’s scope is to be expanded.

Thompson’s attorney, Craig L. Price, of the Manhattan law firm Belkin Burden Wenig & Goldman, did not return calls for comment.

In May, Price said Thompson had not made decisions about his plans for the theater, which has been vacant since 1986.

“Right now he hasn’t determined what his final plan is going to be,” Price said. “He’s taking his time to figure out what would be best for the site.”

But Price did say at that time that Thompson will comply with landmark law and renovate, repair and maintain the landmarked lobby.

“He’s done this before,” Price said. “He’s successfully navigated the New York City marketplace and he’s ready to work to restore [RKO Keith’s] to its former glory for the Flushing community.”

Jerry Rotondi, president of the Committee to Save the RKO Keith’s Theatre, said that protecting the landmarked portion is the group’s No. 1 concern and its members are willing to work with any developer willing to ensure its continued protection.

“It’s time to get real. There was a group that thought it could become a theater again. It’s not going to happen. There’s no more audience,” Rotondi said. “We’re just sticking with making sure that, whatever goes on, the landmarked areas are protected.”

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

Developer Shaya Boymelgreen purchased the theater in 2002 and attempted to develop the long-neglected site at 137-25 Northern Blvd. Plans were approved to turn the theater into a 17-story condo tower with a senior center in 2005.

The plans called for the construction of 200 apartments, 229 parking spaces, a senior center and the restoration of the landmarked lobby to preserve the theater’s history, but they were stalled when Boymelgreen said the project would not be financially viable if certain changes were not made. Financial woes led Doral Bank, which held the mortgage on the property at the time, to indicate publicly in October 2009 that the bank was in negotiations to sell the note on the property.

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

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