A second take on a review process is preventing Kaufman Astoria Studios from calling “action” on their planned expansion – a project which has already been green-lit once before.
Senator Charles Schumer is urging the National Park Service (NPS) to authorize Kaufman’s proposal, which would create New York City’s first outdoor movie studio lot.
Kaufman plans to enclose 36th Street between 34th and 35th avenues within the lot and construct an entry gate at 36th Street and 35th Avenue in Astoria, creating a studio campus similar to those in Hollywood.
The outdoor lot will allow production companies to film exterior and special effects shots directly adjacent to interior sound stages, attracting movie and television clients that would have previously chosen another location to fulfill their needs.
Schumer is hoping the NPS, which deeded the land to the city in the 1970s for the purpose of building the outdoor studio, will act quickly to allow the space to be available for filming by the summer of 2013.
Kaufman has already received approval through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) – a local process which includes authorization from the NPS, Landmarks Preservation Commission and State Historic Preservation Office. However, due to the institution of changes requested by the city’s Public Design Commission, which wanted to give the area a more “gritty, industrial feel” by altering the gate, the NPS informed Kaufman that they had to review the project again. Schumer says the second assessment could push the $2 million project four months behind schedule.
“It’s time to say ‘action’ on this project, so that New York City can become the new star of the film and television industry,” said Schumer. “By building the city’s first ever outdoor studio lot, we can attract film and TV clients that would otherwise have to choose Los Angeles. We can provide a huge boost to New York’s booming film and television industries by getting this project completed so that major production companies can begin using the studio by summer of next year. This outdoor lot could become an iconic New York City destination like the great studios of Hollywood, but the NPS needs to stop the needless bureaucratic delays and allow this project to move forward.”
Despite Schumer’s concern, Jane Ahern, a spokesperson for NPS, says the service expects the project to continue on schedule.
“We are happy to report that all of the parties involved are working together,” Ahern said. “The NPS and all entities are supporting the project moving forward. It should be moving forward on time with no delays.”
New York City’s film and television industries have seen a boom in business over the last decade. Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently announced that the industries generated $7.1 billion in 2011 and have employed 130,000 residents since 2004. According to published reports, 188 films and a record 23 prime time television shows were shot in the five boroughs in 2011.
The outdoor lot is the second expansion in as many years for Kaufman, which spent $23 million on an indoor studio in 2010.
“The creation of the city’s first studio back lot is another chapter in realizing our vision for the studio as a complete campus,” said Hal Rosenbluth, president of Kaufman
Astoria Studios. “The back lot will add to the growth of the Kaufman Astoria Studios campus, the industry in New York and the economic development of the neighborhood.
We are excited to see this project move forward.”
Kaufman, which opened in 1920, is currently a location for major motion pictures, independent films, television shows and commercials, and its stages have been host to countless acting legends, including Bill Cosby, Harrison Ford, Meryl Streep and Al Pacino.