Dec. 15, 2014 By Christian Murray
The owner of Sunnyside Center Cinemas has rejected the six-month lease extension that he was offered by the building owner last week —saying the extension is just too short.
Rudy Prashad, the owner of the Center Cinemas, said it was not worth hiring new staff or unpacking his equipment for six extra months. His last day remains January 4.
“My bags are packed and are pretty much sitting at the front door,” he said.
Prashad said that he mulled over the offer over the weekend but decided it didn’t make sense. “I’ve been making preparations, dealing with staff and it just doesn’t work for me to go back for that short of time.”
Prashad said that he had been trying to reach the owner for the past year to work out where he stood with his lease. He said that if he had been offered the extension three months ago then it would have worked out.
However, at this point, he would be only be willing to stay if he was offered at least 12 months.
Prashad said that movie theaters like his tend to make their money in summer and scrape by in winter. A six month lease would end just before the summer peak season kicks in.
Several residents are hoping that the property owner John Ciafone will offer Prashad a longer lease.
Many want to know if Ciafone is able to build the apartments above the theater without completely demolishing it.
A rally is scheduled to take place between 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. in front of the theater this Sunday and is being organized by local residents Ty Sullivan and Jon Storck.
“We hope it might help open up a discussion between the landlord and the theater owner,” Sullivan said, who believes the rally will be worthwhile.
Sullivan said the loss of the theater would hurt low-income families the most– since many would be unable to afford going to the big multiplex cinemas in Astoria or elsewhere.
The rally, Sullivan said, also aims to show that Sunnyside is a community and that people care.
“This is a neighborhood that is made up of independently-owned and family-owned businesses,” he said. “It’s family-friendly and affordable and we don’t want to lose that. We want to tell buildings owners that is who we are and that’s how we would like to remain.”
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said he supports those involved in the rally—such as Sullivan and Storck.
“I want them to know I am behind them and I will be amplifying their voices as their council member,” he said
Van Bramer encourages John Ciafone to come back to the negotiating table to see what can be done.
“I will be reaching out to John Ciafone and his family again,” he said.