A massive film production studio project in Astoria, helmed by Robert De Niro, is on the fast track after his son Raphael checked off all the boxes during a virtual land use hearing at Queens Borough Hall.
The $400 million Wildflower Studios complex would be built next to the Steinway Piano company along Luyster Creek near the East River, bringing employment opportunities to western Queens as the COVID-19 economic recovery is underway.
“We’re excited to be doing this project given what the city’s been through in the last 18 months,” developer Raphael De Niro said. “The timing couldn’t be better in terms of job creation.”
He expects the project will bring at least 500 construction jobs and around 1,000 to 1,200 workers a day once the studio is completed. De Niro said his firm is already having talks with Urban Upbound about job opportunities for residents of the Astoria, Queensbridge and Ravenswood Houses as well as preliminary conversations with LaGuardia Community College, the Frank Sinatra High School for the Arts and the Variety Boys & Girls Club.
“This is a great project, jobs coming to Queens, and a real opportunity to reach out to high school students to give them experience and perhaps some internship opportunities,” Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said. “It’s a jobs producer. It’s a no-brainer.”
Community Board 1 approved of the project last month by a 35-to-1 vote as part of the city’s public review process. The seven-story, 715,000-square-foot studio will house 11 sound stages, off-street parking for over 300 vehicles and waterfront access for the public along the Luyster Creek waterfront.
“We have a little bit of affinity for this area and Queens having shot scenes for A Bronx Tale in Astoria in ’92 and ‘93,” De Niro said. “I actually worked as a production assistant during the shooting so we’re very familiar with the area and the borough.”
De Niro went on to describe how the complex is being designed with a small cafeteria and no restaurants and no commissary to encourage studio employees to partake of area restaurants instead of staying on campus.
“One of the greatest things about Astoria is that, to us, it’s one of the most food-rich and amenity-rich neighborhoods in New York City,” De Niro said. “And so we are going to be encouraging everyone to eat in the community.”
He added the project requires discretionary approval from the Department of City Planning.
“I like it. It’s a great project for Queens,” Richards said. “And I’m looking forward to it.”