RKO Keith’s to rise: FAA approval means 17-story development will fly


| mchan@queenscourier.com |

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The Courier/Photos

While the curtain has long come down on a historic former movie house in Flushing, recent approval by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has green lighted RKO Keith’s Theatre for Act 2.

The proposed 17-story development will be built approximately 7,000 feet from the runway at LaGuardia Airport, which raised concerns in the past as to whether its height would pose a hazard to airline traffic.

Property owner and developer Patrick Thompson had to resubmit his proposal to the FAA after a previous approval expired. The site’s last owner, Shaya Boymelgreen, received FAA clearance for the same proposal submitted in 2003, said Thompson’s spokesperson Michael Nussbaum, who added that plans for the tower’s height have not changed for the past six years.

An “unofficial preliminary determination” made by the FAA in January said the building would not disrupt flight patterns, but one day before the end of the allotted public hearing time frame, a Virginia resident, Christian Kellberg, filed objections against the $160 million project, Nussbaum said.

The federal agency overruled the petitions late last week, giving Thompson the go-ahead to proceed with his plans to preserve RKO’s landmark lobby and build 357 rental apartments, stores and a community center around it.

“I am now free to finalize and complete the financing with the current partners and banks and will begin constructing in the very near future,” Thompson said in a statement.
In March, Nussbaum said Thompson garnered additional support of “interested parties,” but he said developers were still not ready to identify the new financial backers.

The project’s start date was set back by the single detractor, but Nussbaum said the team will have a better idea of when construction will begin and end in a few weeks. He said the total construction period will still take approximately two and a half years.

The developers, Nussbaum said, are currently conducting a review with the design team. He said they will soon apply for a demolition license at the same time they erect a steel shell to encase and protect the landmark lobby during construction.