Jan. 31, 2021 By Christian Murray (Updated)
The marquee sign at a shuttered Sunnyside movie theater was altered over the weekend with the perpetrator taking aim at the landlord.
“Death by Speculation, Starring Limpdick Landlord,” the sign reads, which appears to have gone up in the past 24 hours.
The vacant cinema, located at 42-17 Queens Blvd., closed in January 2015 after its operator Rudy Prashad was unable to renew the lease.
The landlord, John Ciafone, who bought the property off Dime Savings Bank at the end of 2012, decided that he wanted to develop the property.
Ciafone, who still owns the building, was subject to heavy criticism at the time since a theater had been located at the Queens Boulevard site for more than 40 years.
Prashad, who had operated the theater for nine years and fought to keep the theater open, broke into laughter Sunday when he saw a photo of the altered signage.
“I love it. I’m saving it to my phone and using it as a screensaver,” Prashad said.
“I want to shake his hand,” he said of the perpetrator. “I want to take him out to dinner.”
But Ciafone did not find it amusing and found the episode to be “mind-boggling.”
“I think it was inappropriate and insensitive,” Ciafone said, who added that he has video of the perpetrators and has reported it to the Queens District Attorney’s office.
“I take this seriously and I am going to prosecute. I view it as a threat and don’t understand who would be sick enough to do this.”
The closure of Prashad’s theater was controversial. Residents put together a petition and held a rally outside the theater in support.
Ciafone offered a six month lease extension but Prashad rejected it arguing he needed a long-term commitment.
The property was also occupied by PJ Horgan’s Pub and a local dentist at the time of purchase. The operators of both were informed their lease would not be renewed and have shut since.
Ciafone announced plans at the time to build a 5 to 7 story building with about 60-70 apartments—with about 20 percent of those units being affordable.
But approximately six years after he announced his plans, the storefronts remain vacant and the property is undeveloped. The site, which also includes the shuttered Dime branch, is used for filming movies.
Ciafone was perplexed as to why he was being targeted at this time. He said that he still plans on developing the site and intends to improve the community.
Prashad, who operates a theater in Kew Gardens and four on Long Island, said he would come back to Sunnyside if given the opportunity.
“I’m so sad that it closed. It was a loss to the community.”