Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Queens Preservationists Hoping for Reel Deal on RKO Keith's Movie Theater by Nicholas Hirshon - NY Daily News

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Preservationists who want to buy a shuttered Queens movie palace are hoping its debt-saddled owner will lower the $24 million asking price to cut his losses - or even donate the structure to them for a tax break.

Representatives of Brooklyn developer Shaya Boymelgreen insisted he "would not consider a sizable reduction" on the price tag nor making a donation of the historic RKO Keith's theater in Flushing.

But far-flung fans of the landmark movie house - who want to transform it into a multicultural performing arts center - think Boymelgreen may change his mind, given a host of publicized financial woes.

The Israeli business newspaper Globes reported Monday that Boymelgreen was nearing a debt-rescheduling deal with his firm's largest creditor, Mizrahi Tefahot Bank, because he can't afford an upcoming $2.4 million interest payment.

Globes also reported that Boymelgreen investors are expected to convert part of their bonds into shares, diluting Boymelgreen's 89.8% stake in the company.

Boymelgreen brass told Globes that a bondholders' agreement was pending, but wouldn't disclose details. Boymelgreen's daughter, Bassie Deitsch, who is the group's marketing director, refused to discuss the Globes story with the Daily News.

"He's got so many problems," said Flushing-raised comedian Ed Tracey, founder of the Friends of the RKO Keith's Flushing. "If you look at what he owes, it's almost better for him to donate it."

Jerry Rotondi, a preservationist who is advising Tracey, figured the cash-strapped Boymelgreen would drop the price for the theater, which opened in 1928 and closed in the late 1980s.

"I don't think he particularly cares who he sells it to as long as he gets the money," Rotondi said. "My gut feeling is right now - it's more than a gut feeling - is that it's overpriced."

ReMax broker Erez Daniel, who is representing the RKO Keith's with colleague Kwan Cheung, said the two have fielded calls from potential buyers hoping to turn the perennial eyesore into everything from a mall to a 200-unit condo to a movie theater.

Daniel questioned the legitimacy of Tracey's group, which plans to incorporate and earn nonprofit status. But Daniel said he remains "open-minded to all ideas."

"If the right person will be coming in and will be interested in restoring the theater, nothing would make us happier," he said.

Boymelgreen bought the theater from scandal-plagued landlord Tommy Huang in 2002.