Area civic leaders remain concerned about the future of the Klein farm property in Fresh Meadows following its recent sale to a convicted felon who illegally tore down trees on the protected site.
Ziming Shen of Manhattan, who runs a preschool on the historic Klein property at 194-15 73 Ave., remains under house arrest for stealing funds designated for poor children’s lunches from his chain of Red Apple preschools.
Although Shen was hauled into court in May for not meeting his obligation of paying the $5.2 million judgment against him, he bought the Klein property a month later for $5.6 million and got a $1.45 million mortgage, according to the city’s Department of Finance records.
Shen had been renting the property under a six-year lease for the preschool from another convicted felon, Thomas Huang, who bought it in 2003 for $4.3 million as part of his now-defunct Audrey Realty.
Huang had wanted to build 22 two-family houses or 18 dwellings, but both plans failed since the site is located in a special planned community preservation district.
Last year, Shen illegally destroyed several mature trees on the property and illegally constructed a driveway. He was fined $1,600. Since then, the trees have not been replaced and the front yard on the 2.5-acre site has been neglected.
Preschool classes are now held in an adjacent house on the property. In the past, the large brick farmhouse was used for the school.
Area civic activists, who for years have wanted the property converted to public use as a farm museum or similar institution, are puzzled by the recent high-priced purchase since Shen will be unable to develop the property.