People have been asking for a long time, who owns the theater? The huge, dilapidated, long-vacant building casts a literal and figurative shadow over Rockaway’s main commercial strip.
With many new storefronts and a handful of new businesses, Beach 116th Street looks better than it has in decades. A new merchants association is bringing positive energy. And now there is the potential for many millions of Sandy relief money to further transform the block and surrounding area.
But a true transformation cannot occur without the overhaul of the theater, the string of vacant stores near the beach, and the Park Inn Adult Home on the boardwalk.
That’s where the Konig family comes in.
Esther Konig says she wants Beach 116th Street to be beautiful. And she is going after Game Changer money to make it happen.
The Game Changer is a competition to spur economic growth. Using CDBG-Sandy relief money, the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) will award up to $18 million to a single winner or spread that amount among a number of entrants.
Esther Konig and partners in Sea Wave Realty own the Park Inn building on the boardwalk between Beach 116th Street and Beach 115th Street. The New Park Inn Adult Home is a tenant and is known to share its mentally ill residents and panhandlers with the Beach 116th Street shopping strip. The adult home business, according to Esther, is owned by her father-in-law, Sam Konig.
The Park Inn is currently undergoing a facelift of sorts. As reported in The Wave in November, the Park Inn was in line to receive $1.4 million from the New York State Sandy Social Services Block Grant. Esther says work is being done though no money has been received. The owners are doing the work hoping to be reimbursed, she says.
Esther also owns the buildings around the corner, the row of steel gated vacancies, that begin on the oceanfront and then continue down 116th Street. She also owns the beachfront building of what used to be the Sand Bar.
Abutting all her property, all 44,000 square feet, is a crumbling theater. She doesn’t own the theater. And she says she doesn’t know who owns it. But she did say she “heard through the grapevine” that there might be plans for a medical facility on the theater site.
That’s, maybe, where Michael Konig, her husband, comes in. He’s not sure if he owns it. At least that’s what he said in a phone interview. He said he has “influence over it” but would have to check if he owns it because “these things are in corporations.” Although he was unsure of ownership, he said the building is for sale. He’d take $6 million. If he owns it.
Although Esther Konig claimed repeatedly that she doesn’t know who owns the theater she did arrange tours of the place and according to a local even accompanied interested parties on a walk-through in the fall. As for hearing things through the grapevine, it seems the grapevine is indeed fruitful.
Michael Konig said he has had “three or four serious” conversations with “people” interested in transforming the old theater into a medical facility. But, he added, he is “somewhat open” to other ideas.
Esther said winning the Game Changer would be a “win-win” for her and surrounding communities. She said the Park Inn “had the hell beat out of it” by Sandy but also agreed the building “needed some perking up” before the storm. She said her Game Changer plans call for a boutique hotel with restaurants, and an enclosed pool at the corner site, next to the Park Inn.
“Retail space with beautiful glass windows” and a second story would take the place of the one story, steel gated vacant buildings that adorn Beach 116th Street now.
On February 21, Esther said she “redid the grant proposal” and resubmitted plans to the EDC which launched the Game Changer in June, 2013 with proposals due by September 9, 2013. The new proposal, Esther said, was different from the original. The Park Inn building was no longer in the proposal and the new submission did not include the theater.
When asked who the grapevine consisted of, who told her the theater might be used as a medical facility, she said “just some people at the synagogue.” It’s possible Michael could have provided more substance. He admitted to having “influence over it” and added that he is also a consultant to the Park Inn. Though Esther said, “he’s not very involved.”
Michael Konig’s many business interests might be the reason he’s lost track of the theater’s ownership. According to various reports, which he did not dispute in a phone call, he has owned more than 60 nursing homes and other real estate in multiple states.
According to the New York Department of Finance the owner of the theater is Campek Systems Inc. The tax bill is sent to a business with a slightly different name, Chamtek Systems Inc. at 1102 Teaneck Road, Teaneck, New Jersey. The last tax bill due on April 1 totaled $33,199.
The Teaneck address happens to be home to a number of Michael Konig’s business interests, including Comprehensive Healthcare Management. This company’s phone number is 201-837-9600. That same phone number is listed as the contact number on IRS Tax form 990 for The Philanthropists Charity.
Michael Konig is listed as a trustee. According to Guidestar.org, a company that gathers and dispenses information from the IRS, The Philanthropist Charity, in 2010, showed adjusted net income of more than $17 million. According to the balance sheet of the return, The Philanthropists Charity had total assets of more than $72 million.
Michael Konig is also listed as a contributor. His aggregate contributions to the charity that year totaled more than $8 million.
Although The Philanthropists Charity has a 201 area code phone number in Teaneck, New Jersey, the address listed on the charity’s tax return is a Belle Harbor address.
That property is owned by Esther Konig. Esther says she has nothing to do with the charity, a private foundation.
According to the 2010 return, The Philanthropists Charity received more than $14 million in revenue from 3737 Caribbean Partners LLC, a company founded by Michael Konig. “Yes, that’s mine,” he said, when asked about it.
3737 Caribbean took over a mortgage from a failing bank and in effect became the owners of a luxury condo in Florida. Today, a single condo unit in the Caribbean Miami is listed for $7.3 million.
Meanwhile, the theater on Beach 116th Street stands empty, vacant for more than fifteen years.
The future of the street, says Jon Gaska of Community Board 14 remains in doubt. “Until these properties including the SRO hotels are addressed, the success of the effort to revitalize the south end of Beach 116th Street will be compromised.”
It remains to be seen if the Game Changer will, in fact, change the game. Esther Konig said that she wants “116th Street to be the best that it can be.” If she doesn’t win the Game Changer, she said, “the hell with it. I’ll still put something nice there. Not as special as it would be with the Game Changer money but something nice. We’ll see.”
Some neighbors wonder if a Game Changer is possible while a crumbling theater casts its shadow? One Rockaway resident said it wasn’t about the Game Changer at all. “I don’t know who owns it. But keeping the building like that and letting it rot, that’s being a bad neighbor.”
Game Changer winners were supposed to be announced by the end of 2013 but with a new administration taking over in City Hall, the EDC has held off on selecting a winner or winners. On Wednesday, a spokesperson said there was no news but “we still look forward to making an announcement this spring.”