2006-03-01 / Front Page

Silvercup Unveils $1 B Expansion Plan

BY JOHN TOSCANO H

ollywood East, the ever-growing expanse of motion picture and television facilities in Astoria and Long Island City, will take on a larger meaning in the near future with the planned construction of a $1 billion expansion of the Silvercup HStudios just south of the Queensboro Bridge in Long Island City.

Photo Vinny DuprePhoto Vinny DupreThe six-acre project on the banks of the East River, will consist of three buildings—two high-rise apartment towers, each flanking a bi-level building which will house studios, offices and retail space. The studios will include eight round stages and the towers will contain 1,000 apartments, a catering hall and a museum.

Located at Vernon Boulevard and 43rd Avenue the new Silvercup West complex will be just blocks away from the original Silvercup Studios founded in 1983 and made famous as the production site of the multi-award winning television series “The Sopranos” and “Sex And The City”.

Designed by famed English architect Lord Richard Rogers, the latest addition to Western Queens’ movie-making capabilities which includes the equally famous Astoria Studios, will be the largest production facility on the eastern seaboard.

The huge development, which will bring with it considerable economic benefits (2,200 construction and 3,900 permanent jobs), was launched last Tuesday at City Hall as the City Planning Commission (CPC) approved the start of the public review process mandated for proposed projects in the city.

The proposal now goes before Community Board 2 for review and a recommendation and then hearings on the proposal to be held by Borough President Helen Marshall. Apublic hearing by the CPC will follow on April 6.

Construction is expected to begin early next year.

There appears to be community support for the project, judging by comments made by Board 2 Chairman Joseph Conley to reporters that although the complex is only in the early stages, by and large the project has been well received.

Conley also said that Silvercup has agreed to discuss possible jobs for local residents when construction starts.

The ambitious Silvercup expansion proposal comes amidst a boom in movie and television productions in New York City triggered by city and state tax credits enacted for film producers in the past two years. The incentives, that go to jobs which complete 75 percent of studio work here, have lured producers from Hollywood and Canada back to the city, according to the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting.

OFTB officials said that last year, there were more than 100 new and returning television shows taped in New York, many of them at Silvercup and the Astoria Studios.

In recent media reports, Stuart Suna, who with his brother Alan founded Silvercup, reported that besides such old standbys as “The Sopranos”, five television pilots are now taping at their studio as well as two movies for Warner Brothers.

The increase in demand for production facilities ties in directly to the Sunas’ decision to embark on their major expansion.

Stuart Suna said in a recent interview that by making more production space available, more productions that might have been filmed elsewhere would now take advantage of all the benefits of filming in New York City.

Alan Suna, Silvercup Chief Executive Officer, stated that changing needs also are recognized in the design of the soon-to-be-built expansion.

He noted, “The type and size of sound studios that clients require has changed dramatically since we opened in 1983. They need to be larger and taller to meet the requirements for larger productions and jazzier special effects that are such a major part of film productions in this period of filmmaking.”

For this reason, the buildings housing the sound stages in the new development will be 526 and 418 feet wide. Their height is still to be determined.

Kaufman Astoria Studios, located in the heart of Astoria, are also planning a major expansion, hoped to begin next year also. The plans are part of a broader development to possibly merge with the famed Culver Studios in Los Angeles.

Despite the major impact that the proposed Silvercup West development will have on film making in this area, the project also will have a lasting effect in the community where it will rise, beginning with the massive, ultramodern waterfront esplanade that will enhance the local environment and encourage future visitors.

Another major local improvement will be the renovation of the only remaining structure of the landmark Terra Cotta works, a 3,000square-foot space where the firm manufactured ornaments which grace many of New York’s most famous and beautiful buildings.

“It’s a little gem of a building and we’re going to have a use for it that’s appropriate,” said Alan Suna, 53, who like his younger brother, Stuart, 50, comes from a background in architecture.

Suna summed up his and his brother’s plan for the local area in a recent interview, saying, “It’ll be a 24-7 space for living, work and leisure. We’re bringing people down to a waterfront that hasn’t had accessibility in over 100 years.”

The Sunas’ attention to details involving the community they moved into two decades ago—the waterfront esplanade, the Terra Cotta project, their agreement to create jobs for local residents, being a good neighbor—are not lost on local residents.

The Sunas, together with their late father, Henry Suna, started their journey in Long Island City with the purchase of a building that featured an easily identified local landmark— the huge “Silvercup” sign on the roof of their building which immediately identified for millions of people the site of the one-time bread bakery.

The ambitious project on which they now embark in time may develop into another landmark with another easily identifiable sign, Silvercup West, occupying a rooftop perch.

It all happened without a preordained scheme or plan.

“We just stumbled on the idea of studios because the spaces we had were big, open and large, and we were told New York City didn’t have a lot of those,” Alan Suna explained in a recent news article.

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