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More like Thomas Huang failed in his attempt to completely destroy the theater…he was stopped before he could finish the job, and had to settle for mortally wounding it.
BobbyS, I trust you are not seriously happy that “the ornate lobby will be saved and restored!” Go back and read some of the earlier discussion about what that actually entails.
Somehow I got dropped from update notifications and have missed all of these great photos and comments from the past month!
LuisV, I don’t understand how you can declare that the city will have a major growth spurt, with many more people staying closer to home because of the high price of gasoline, and Flushing will become the 5th downtown…yet simultaneously declare the Keith’s a lost cause! What kind of “downtown” will it be without a theater? It seems to me that your argument makes it even MORE important that there be a revitalized Keith’s! And all the more reason to argue for building in the airspace over it without destroying the theater — so that once all that money starts flowing in, it will be feasible to do a complete restoration.
I mean, if you’re going to dream, dream big!
I guess it won’t be long before this huge Carnival cruise ship will be parked at the end of Main Street, towering over the undulating green waves covering the ruins of the Titanic, and the Helen Marshall Senior Bathroom Flushing Pavilion ready for its first customers.
They should line the sidewalk in front of it with flagpoles flying blowups of $1000 bills and call it Payoff Plaza.
“The presence of mildew in the local papers” is evidenced by their continuing use of unchallenged press releases from developers, architects and politicians.
BTW, that RKO.com website is understandably self-aggrandizing, as they make it sound like the current RKO has some connection to intellectual property rights for classic RKO films — which they do not. About all they have are rights to the RKO trademarks. Anyway, as noted, the RKO theater chain was completely divested in 1950 and subsequently became part of RKO-Stanley Warner Theaters, later purchased by Cinerama Corp. Its origins as the B.F. Keith’s and Orpheum chains, let alone its connection to the RKO studio, are but a distant memory.
That’s a loaded question, BobbyS! For an unusually through and complete history of RKO Pictures and the theater chain, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RKO_Pictures I had assumed RKO went completely under years ago, when General Tire finally relinquished RKO General, but apparently the name was kept alive as RKO Pictures LLC, founded by Ted Hartley and Dina Merrill in 1989, with offices in LA and NY. However, they have no connection with either the theaters or the rights to RKO films.
BobbyS, not sure what sign you are thinking of. There was once a small RKO sign perpendicular to the upper facade; there was also a larger RKO Keith’s scaffolding-type sign above the left-hand side of the storefronts. Both can be seen in the 70s-era shots posted by SWC on December 19. They’ve been gone for some time.
I’m the last one to be a party pooper, SWC, but images like that still make me squirm 9 ½ years later, and I’m sure many others as well. Point made, but not a great way to do it. (Not attacking you, just saying…bad idea.)
The dentist’s hygienist undoubtedly removed the plaque.
Sorry, you left yourself open for that one. Open wide, in fact.
Hey, patients have to rinse and spit somewhere!
I don’t remember ever seeing that photo before! Where did you find it, and are there more?
Ed, back from the dead… hey, that rhymes!
Hate to be a broken record, but “what a load of crap” that story is. I could tell as soon as I read the line in the 4th paragraph complaining that restoration of the lobby is potentially years away because the road there is “rife with red tape.” Yeah, that makes perfect sense: if only the developers weren’t hamstrung by red tape, they would be able to do right by the theater and the community so much faster. And if you believe that, I have a big theater auditorium awaiting demolition in Flushing I’d like to sell you!
Thanks — I thought it looked like the laundromat was closed the other day. Can’t believe they’re seriously proposing a BJ’s for the site while still struggling to find a sufficient source of water…even considering piping it in from Newtown??? Anyway, the only update on the Fine Arts left for this page would be if anyone captured pictures of it being demolished, whenever that happens.
In other words, they have left the place unprotected, so more and more of the interior is being defaced and/or carted off? Some of you guys in the area should install NEW locks, so you’re the only ones who can get in. Document the open door. Then you could make a case that they have actually abandoned the property, and you’ve taken possession. Isn’t possession nine-tenths of the law?
I’m only half kidding.
Wow! In the belly of the beast, so to speak. Have to take your word for it about the plaster work — a little hard to make out. What is the source of the light visible at about :18-:20, and again at about :27-:30? My brain is trying to turn it into an illuminated concession stand sign, but I know that can’t be it (then again, my brain is trying to tell me I’m actually looking up under the mezzanine at Shea Stadium before it was torn down!)
Amazing photos — and heartbreaking to see what they did to the place.
1. The link to that original 2005 article I posted above was wrong; it is now View link
2. SWCphotography, is there a link to the 27 new auditorium photos? Only see the one posted above. (Won’t ask how you got them!)
3. I worry that even if the FAA will not give a height variance, it won’t save the theater; they probably built the excess height into the design so they could “compromise” — and reducing the height would actually make it even more difficult to argue they can afford to preserve the entire theater and build over it, since they would have to build “downward” to cram in all the space they want to make it “economically feasible”…
This is all truly absurd — not just the plan, but the reactions to the plan. Checking back, I’ve found that this is the exact same Jay Valgora design put forth by Boymelgreen SIX years ago. NOTHING has changed: not the idea that the “theater” would be “preserved,” nor the PR flackery that promoted the idea of how wonderful it was to replace this “dilapidated” theater with a big new residential building. Note that according to this 2005 description of the same plan, the new building’s tenants will be able to walk through the historic lobby — missing, apparently, the entire front wall — on their way to the elevators. Perhaps they’ve altered the apartment/condo configuration once again, but that’s it — and they’re STILL ignoring everybody who says this thing is going to overwhelm the neighborhood. So what else is new?
RKO Keith’s to get a touch of glass
By Cynthia Koons
Architect Jay Valgora presents the latest designs, approved Monday, for the dilapidated RKO KeithÃ•s Theater in downtown Flushing. Photo by Cynthia Koons
An elegant 18-story high rise adorned by a glass curtain will be built atop the rundown RKO Keith’s Theater at the end of Main Street in Flushing if Community Board 7’s nod Monday night paves the way for the city’s approval of the project.
It was one week shy of a year since architect Jay Valgora first stood before CB 7 and asked the board to approve a residential and retail development that was nearly twice the allowable bulk by law. His proposal was unanimously defeated. This time he asked the board to consider a building that was slimmer in design but maintained the architectural character of the movie house by restoring the historic lobby and constructing a translucent curtain at the entrance.
“The exciting part is the exact same building that we saw a year ago is still going to be there,” said Chuck Apelian, CB 7 vice chairman. He worked with Brooklyn-based Boymelgreen Developers to present their designs last February, which were essentially the same in look, just bulkier in size.
When they unanimously rejected the plan a year ago, board members contended the parking was insufficient because developers were only creating 266 spaces for 250 condos. On Monday night, Valgora showed board members a plan that included 233 valet spaces for 200 apartments. The board approved it in a 33-to-2 vote.
The proposal now must be approved by the borough board, Borough President Helen Marshall, the Department of City Planning and City Council before being constructed. Planners said once approved, the project could take two years to complete.
“It will be the beacon of Flushing Main Street, just as the RKO Keith’s was for so many years,” Marshall said Tuesday. “We’re all looking forward to that.”
At Marshall’s urging, revisions to the design did not eliminate plans for a two-story, 12,500-square-foot senior center that includes classrooms and a dining area.
“It’s really a world-class design,” said Howard Goldman, the developer’s attorney. “It has pulled its belt in and gotten a little slimmer. We hope to bring back some of the glory that the RKO Keith’s had in Queens.”
The RKO Keith’s Theater was built in the 1920s and was a destination cinema for 60 years where major silent movie stars performed vaudeville acts and Groucho Marx made his moustache famous, said Joe Sena, a documentarian who is working on a film about the movie house.
The theater closed in the mid-1980s and fell into disrepair in the hands of developer Tommy Huang, who was convicted of a felony charge for ignoring asbestos contamination and spilling hundreds of gallons of fuel oil in the basement of the building. When civic leaders toured the landmark cinema two years ago, they saw the once-grandiose lobby covered in graffiti and blanketed in dust.
But Valgora promised to resurrect the RKO Keith’s lobby by restoring the two grand staircases and replacing the centerpiece fountain that vanished from the building.
The entrance will be encased by a frosted, undulating glass curtain that matches the dimensions of the original theater’s proscenium.
“It’s like a wall of fabric,” Valgora said. “Right behind that is the original historic lobby.”
The foyer will be open to the public and serve as the entrance for the residents of the 200 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments upstairs. Valgora said the building is set 10 feet further back from the street than originally planned and is slimmer in dimension all around.
The developers said it would cost roughly $65 million to construct the building, markedly less than the $100 million they were planning to spend on last year’s designs.
Apelian said it was important that CB 7 voted to maintain the architectural integrity of the building while still requiring the developer to add parking and to slash the number of apartments.
“We fought for that building,” Apelian said. “So much so that it would be a sacrilege to give you something else.”
A few board members spoke against the project, contending that it did not fit in with the surrounding neighborhood and would not conform with the neighborhood’s cost of living.
SWC, your points are right on; just look at the fourth composite rendering down in the Architect’s Newspaper story, showing what’s supposed to be the long view down Main St. with that new behemoth at the end. The image in the foreground is clearly an actual photograph, showing Main St. clogged with traffic in every direction — and that’s what the architect is showing us by incorporating an image WITHOUT this project actually being there!
I wrote to that paper, as follows:
To the editor,
Your January 14 article, “Curtain Call for Curtain Wall in Queens” by Tom Stoelker, opens with a quote from Groucho Marx. How appropriate, since everything about the plan for this Main Street, Flushing project screams “farce”. To start, you claim in the article’s subhead, “Studio V Architecture’s proposed mixed-use tower saves 82-year-old RKO Keith’s Theater.” You must be joking! Last time I checked, a “theater” meant more than just a lobby — which is all that would be “saved” here.
Despite all the press coverage, the details of this plan remain a mystery, and rather than clear up any of the questions, your article simply adds more head-scratchers to the mix. Chief among the conundrums is just exactly how the landmarked lobby can be opened up for display without destroying half the foyer and the entire ticket lobby. One might think that renderings showing the lobby through a glass wall would give some clue, but as you say, “Missing from the images are details of the grand movie house lobby, which will be exposed to the street through a two-story glass atrium.” Indeed, despite the photo-realistic quality of the rest of the rendering, the area behind the glass shroud appears as vague, boxy white shapes. Isn’t it odd that no attempt has been made to illustrate the very feature Studio V claims to be the focal point of the entire project?
You write, “Designers plan to erect a steel cage around the original structure and then insert protective skin. The original faÃ§ade will then be removed to reveal the interiors for all of Main Street to see, making the old lobby a star.” Did you not think to ask how the entire faÃ§ade can be removed and the interior revealed without removing the lobby’s front end — or how that can be accomplished without violating the landmarks law? You continue, “The cage will then support the new structure and the towerâ€™s base will replicate the stageâ€™s proscenium arch.” What? How does the tower’s base “replicate” the main element of the Thomas Lamb-designed auditorium, which is to be completely destroyed?
Saying, “there are a few issues to iron out” is an understatement. If a senior center is to “weave its way around the space,” does this mean the seniors are to be on display through the glass wall? When you say Studio V’s Jay Valgora “hopes to see restaurant and bar crowds enliven the lobby,” does this mean the historic lobby is to be opened up as access to these businesses, or is it to remain a set piece on display behind glass, as every bit of press about the project seems to suggest?
Rather than repeat nonsensical and questionable PR claims, you could do more to validate your “newspaper” name by thinking about what you’re writing, and asking some relevant questions.
I think that’s a safe bet. The article says, “Missing from the images are details of the grand movie house lobby, which will be exposed to the street through a two-story glass atrium.” Gee, I wonder why those details are missing? Well, let’s see — it also says, “Designers plan to erect a steel cage around the original structure and then insert protective skin. The original faÃ§ade will then be removed to reveal the interiors for all of Main Street to see, making the old lobby a star.” So obviously, your concerns about destruction of the front of the lobby are correct, and they either haven’t got a clue or are afraid to reveal what this actually means. But there are some truly bizarre things mentioned as well. It continues, “The cage will then support the new structure and the towerâ€™s base will replicate the stageâ€™s proscenium arch.” What?? How does the stage’s proscenium arch figure into any of this, when it’s at the far end of the auditorium and is to be demolished? How would the tower’s base “replicate” it? Hold on; that’s not all. The article also says, “A senior center will weave its way around the space, and Valgor hopes to see restaurant and bar crowds enliven the lobby.” Does this mean the lobby will be open and provide access to the restaurant and bar? Will the seniors be on display through the glass wall? Does ANY of this make any sense? I think I’m going to write to either The Architect’s Newspaper or Jay Valgora at STUDIO V, or both, and ask for some explanations.
I love the way the subhead in “The Architect’s Newspaper” says this design “saves 82-year-old RKO Keith’s Theater”! Really? Last time I checked, most theaters consist of more than a lobby. Ah, but that’s a mere detail… wouldn’t expect architects to be bothered with those.
So now Ed Solero has vanished along with the fountain? Nothing makes any sense.
I still can’t comprehend those photos. If they are indeed unretouched and show the actual state things are in, it seems almost incomprehensible that the walls were stripped down to the sheetrock and graffitied, yet the frames and ticket booth – not to mention the entire columned second story – appear to be virtually in mint condition. That’s why I thought they were artist’s renderings of parts to be restored.
Let’s all go to the lobby…
Let’s all go to the lobby…
Let’s all go to the lobby…
And stare at it through the glass!
Unfortunately, the text does nothing to explain what the pictures show, saying only they are “interior photos of the theater and renderings of how it will look after development.” If those are indeed simply “interior photos of the theater” then the lobby is actually in EXCELLENT shape, except for the streaks of white water damage on one portion of the blue ceiling and the sections of lower wall that have been stripped. I find that hard to believe.
Meanwhile Thompson keeps claiming that the building will be a “classic bookend” to Main St. What is classic about it? It looks like another big apartment building, albeit with some quirky angles. The glass curtain in the renderings appears nearly opaque, with a feeble excuse for a marquee that makes no attempt to recreate either the original or later one on the Keith’s. It will be virtually impossible for anybody to tell there was ever a theater there if they’re not standing right in front of it. What a joke.
Those are very odd images — they obviously combine actual photos of the ruined interior with renderings of the restoration. Are the walls shown in their current plain white plaster with graffiti simply to show the contrast, or because they’re not planning to restore those areas? They also leave open the question of how one will be able to view the restored high ceiling if the whole thing is enclosed in glass, since you’d have to be able to walk through it to look up!