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A Little Respect for the Community, Please

TimesLedger Newspapers

There has to be a point when the city tells developers enough. That point has come with the Millennium office building on Northern Boulevard in Flushing. Chon Property Corp., of Flushing, bought the building for $2.6 million in 2003 and has done nothing with it.

This historic property was built in 1930 and has been rotting for eight years. The building is in the middle of the Korean-American business district. The owners have three open complaints with the city Department of Buildings and seven open Environmental Control Board violations, including a partial stop-work order.

The owner also operates the Spa Castle facility in nearby College Point and, although there was some concern when the spa was being built, those concerns appear to have been unfounded.

Sadly, that is not the case with the Millennium building. Sunny Hahn, a Flushing community activist and senior adviser to the Korean-American Association, is concerned the site will be overdeveloped. She wants the building landmarked.

Landmarking plays an important role in preserving the city’s historic buildings, but it can also make it difficult for owners to realize a profit on their investment.

In the case of the former RKO Keith’s Theatre on nearby Queens Boulevard, the city Landmarks Preservation Commission landmarked just the lobby of the theater, allowing developers to build around it.

Speaking of the Millennium, Hahn said, “The building was purchased by the owner of Spa Castle and he doesn’t have any respect for the heritage of the community. He bought it and I hear he wants to build a hotel on top of the existing building.”

The city may have to weigh the importance of preserving the heritage of Flushing against the right of developers to make a profit on their investment. It is not an easy call.

Meanwhile, the folks at Chon Property could ease tensions by meeting with community leaders and making their intentions clear. One would have thought that they would have learned the importance of being a good neighbor from the tensions they faced in College Point. They could address the violations that are beginning to pile up.

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