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RKO Keith Theatre, Flushing, NY

Crain’s New York

May 24, 2010

Derelict landmark theater in Queens snapped up

Long-vacant RKO Keith Theatre in Flushing is bought from bank for $20 million by a Manhattan condominium developer; 389,000-square-foot building allowed on site.

By Theresa Agovino

A Manhattan condo developer paid $20 million for the landmarked RKO Keith Theatre in Flushing. The deal was arranged by the bank that holds the mortgage which was taken out by the former owner, troubled real estate investor Shaya Boymelgreen.

Patrick Thompson said he hasn’t decided what to do with derelict property on Northern Boulevard that has stood vacant for nearly 25 years. Options he is considering include building a condo or nursing home on the site. Mr. Thompson said Doral Bank, one of his lenders, contacted him about buying the property after Mr. Boymelgreen defaulted on the loan.

“I picked it up for the price of the loan,” said Mr. Thompson. “I saw a real economic opportunity here.”

Mr. Thompson says he can build a 389,000-square-foot building.

“It is going to be good for the community to have something in the location,” said Craig Price, a lawyer for Mr. Thompson who worked on the deal.

Published reports say the once famous theatre, which featured such headliners as Bob Hope, has been vacant since 1986.

Mr. Boymelgreen purchased it in 2002 for $15 million intending to build condos. Mr. Thompson says he has those earlier plans, which feature a three-story glass wall that would allow pedestrians to peek into the landmarked lobby. That’s the only portion of property that is landmarked and must be renovated and repaired, said Mr. Thompson, who has developed three condo projects in Manhattan.

Mr. Boymelgreen couldn’t be reached for comment. The once prolific developer has suffered numerous defeats amid the recession. Earlier this year, his company was evicted from its Brooklyn headquarters for failure to pay rent, and federal regulators seized LibertyPointe Bank, an institution that he helped start and where he served as chairman.

Meanwhile, several of his real estate projects are stalled, and he faces a flood of lawsuits alleging everything from failure to repay loans to fraud and negligence, as well as breach of contract related to the construction and sale of two condominium projects.

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