BY JACKIE STRAWBRIDGE
The current of Western Queens development pushes on, as Sunnyside’s local independent theater will soon close to make room for a residential complex.
Sunnyside Center Cinema has sat at the spot for years, offering tickets at very low prices compared to the typical New York multiplex theater.
Property owner John Ciafone said the theater’s lease will not be renewed, and has until January to close up shop.
Rudy Prashad, who owns this and other movie theaters in the City according to an employee, did not return messages or emails requesting comment as of press time.
Ciafone intends to lease the air rights above the first floor, keeping ownership of the ground floor retail. Per the real estate listing at Modern Spaces, the leasing price is $750,000.
The movie theater and neighboring bank need to vacate, Ciafone said, because their buildings as well as a rear space will be demolished to make room for a retail condo under the potential development.
Ciafone said he is currently looking for a development partner at the site that has “extensive affordable housing experience.”
“Our goal is to find the right developer, not necessarily [one who] pays the most,” Evan Daniel of Modern Spaces said.
This might include some affordable housing, he continued, but added, “I do envision luxury residential above the current retail space.”
“We’re just looking to see what the developers are saying, and then it will be up to John,” he said, also noting that many developers are responding to the pro-affordable housing political climate.
As for the retail space, Daniel said the idea is to rent at market value, as opposed to the rates the cinema currently pays, which he called “a sweetheart deal” and “charity.”
The cinema was “a good tenant,” Ciafone said. “We hopefully will have him back when we’re done, if they’re interested in coming back.”
UPDATE: Ciafone told the Queens Tribune that he has offered to give the cinema another six months at the spot, due to the fact that no work will be done on the site until that time, which Daniel confirmed. Prashad could not immediately be reached for comment.
Via local blog We Heart Sunnyside, an online petition to keep the theater opened yesterday and has collected about 150 signatures. The petition can be found at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/298/195/683/save-the-sunnyside-center-theatre/?cid=FB_TAF.
Reach Jackie Strawbridge at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JNStrawbridge.