The Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce publicly criticized the proposed sale (yet again) of the RKO Keith’s Theatre site, located at 135-35 Northern Boulevard in Flushing, NY 11354. Over the years, many neighborhood activists like Jerry Rotondi of the “Committee to Save the RKO Keith’s Theatre of Flushing” and Chris Kellberg of “Save the Flushing RKO Keith’s Theatre” have labored to restore the grandeur of this historically landmarked site.
Unfortunately, the current property owner, Jerry Karlik of JK Equities, recently announced the RKO site is now back on the market. Karlik’s actions repeat a cycle of failures by a series of developers who promised to redevelop this site. However, reports the Queens Chronicle:
Flushing residents wishing for lasting change to the building will have an ally on their side that they did not have before. The Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce, which was founded in 2014, has vowed to work with developers to ensure that the theater’s next purchase is not followed by more inaction.
“We don’t want to be trapped in an endless loop of promised developments on that site,” John Choe, the chamber’s executive director, told the Chronicle. “It has important historical significance and we want to make sure that development on that site proceeds.”
The RKO Keith’s Theatre was once one of the most celebrated movie palaces of New York City. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the theater’s ticket lobby and grand foyer were landmarked by the City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. The RKO has remained derelict since it was closed in 1986 and has steady deteriorated with a succession of developers who have bought and then sold the property.
In March 2015, Community Board 7 approved a plan by Karlik to renovate the theater and build condos above it. With these lucrative approvals in place, Karlik stands to make a quick buck by flipping the RKO. “In the past six months, we have received several unsolicited offers to purchase the site at attractive pricing,” Karlik said. As reported in the Times-Ledger:
Simon Gerson, president of the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce, said the site needs a developer who is genuinely interested in developing it.
“We look forward to working with a real developer to transform a major eyesore into a neighborhood asset that brings people together,” Gerson said.
Those interested in working on this issue are urged to contact the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce and attend our upcoming community planning forum on March 5, 9:30am to 2pm, at St. George’s Church.