Kaufman Astoria plans to build 10th sound stage

By Bill Parry

Kaufman Astoria Studios, one of the largest film production centers on the East Coast, is about to become even larger.

Construction on a new $24 million, 18,000-square-foot sound stage will break ground early next year. Stage N will be the studio’s eighth self-contained production facility.

“When you add them to the open-air back lot, and our music recording studio that can be used as a stage, that gives us a total of 10,” Studio President Hal Rosenbluth said. “When you compare it to Warner Bros.’s 40 stages, it seems small, but remember, Hollywood is an industry town. No. 2 to L.A. is not such a bad thing.”

“Men in Black 3” and “Goodfellas” as well as TV shows like “Sesame Street,” “Orange Is the New Black” and “Nurse Jackie” have all been filmed at Kaufman Astoria Studios.

“Film and television production in New York City has never been stronger,” Rosenbluth said. “With Stage N, we’ll be able to accommodate even more projects and continue to make New York the film and television capital of the world.”

Steady growth has been part of a long-term plan to reinvigorate the neighborhood with the studio as an anchor. Last month, it was the centerpiece of the newly designated Kaufman Arts District, a 24-block area that contains the Museum of the Moving Image, the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts and the Queens Council on the Arts.

“After the Army vacated in the ’70s this whole area was abandoned and overrun with vandals,” Rosenbluth said, referring to the era when the military made training films on the site. “When owner George Kaufman took over in 1982, his goal was to make the studio a big part of the neighborhood — not to own everything but to facilitate growth in the neighborhood.”

Further expansion may include hotels and residential buildings in the future.

“If we’re involved in residential projects, the arts district allows us to bring more traffic. That helps all the landlords and restaurants and all the small business owners,” Rosenbluth said. “All this is economic growth and it must be sustainable and we’re building on that.”

That is one of the reasons that a flea market is opening on the studio’s back lot starting Sunday.

“The flea might bring more people to the area who might not have been here. They might think, ‘That’s a neat place, maybe I’ll get an apartment there instead of Queens Plaza or Court Square,’ That’s how all businesses are gaining from our growth,” Rosenbluth said.

More than a few eyebrows were raised when it was announced the flea market would take place on the back lot. The whole block of 36th Street between 34th and 35th Avenues was de-mapped and turned over to the studio in a deal with the city Economic Development Corp. in 2012.

“There has been a voice of some concern, but I assure you I am not in the flea market business,” Rosenbluth said. “It’s just five hours on eight straight Sundays. We’re just trying to do as many things possible to grow the studio and the whole neighborhood as well.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.