Lights, Camera, Action!
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced on May 9 that the National Park Service (NPS) has given final approval to Kaufman Astoria Studio’s designs and plans to open a new outdoor movie studio lot next to their soundstages in Astoria, Queens. Last week, Schumer called on the National Park Service to immediately give final sign-off on a plan, which had received prior approval during the community planning process, to move forward with construction the studio. Delays in the approval process could have resulted in Kaufman Studio’s missing the lucrative summer 2013 filming season and added additional cost to the project. NPS informed Schumer’s office today that they have now approved the new design of the studio lot on 36th Street between 34th and 35th Avenues.
“We can finally say: action,” said Schumer. “With National Park’s sign off the project can move forward, on schedule, and begin competing for major productions with places like Los Angeles and Toronto. I want to thank the National Parks Service for responding to our concerns so promptly and for understanding that the only thing that needed to be cut from this production was the red tape.”
Kaufman Astoria Studios (KAS) in Astoria is expanding its operation by building New York’s first-ever outdoor studio lot that will allow production companies to film exterior and special effects shots and attract new film and TV clients to NYC that otherwise would have to choose Los Angeles and other cities. The National Park Service, which deeded the land to New York City for the purposes of building this studio, had previously signed off on the deal, but was requiring an additional layer of review in order to approve slight design changes for the outdoor lot. Last week, in a trip to the studio, Schumer pointed out that NPS was asking for this additional review despite the fact that the land – which was already deeded to the city exclusively for film production – was being used for that purpose. Schumer raised concerns that a second review by NPS of the design would have pushed the $2 million project three to four months behind schedule and would threaten the studio’s ability to host major productions by the summer of 2013.
Kaufman Astoria Studios is expanding in its current location by building New York City’s first-ever outdoor movie studio lot. Kaufman plans to enclose 36th Street between 34th and 35th Avenues and build an iconic entry gate, at 36th Street on 35th Avenue – creating a dramatic studio campus that could become an iconic NYC destination. The studio will allow productions to shoot exterior and special effects shots within the Kaufman Studios campus, directly and conveniently adjacent to the interior sound stages, making NYC a destination for film and television clients who otherwise would have chosen Los Angeles, Toronto or New Orleans.
Kaufman had already received approval for the project, including enclosing 36th street, through the rigorous Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) – a local process that included approval from the NPS, Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) and review of the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). The project required NPS approval because the site is on National Park Service land. In the 1970s, the National Park Service deeded the land to New York City with the stipulation that the historic site, originally a silent film mecca in the 1920s, continue to be used for film purposes. According to the terms of the deed, the agency must sign-off to ensure the land is being used for the purposes it was transferred. NPS, through the ULURP process, had already done that, but because the New York City’s Public Design Commission (PDC) subsequently requested that the project make slight design changes to add a more “gritty, industrial feel,” the National Park Service informed the studio that they would again have to review the entire project– a lengthy process that could have meant project delays and increased costs.
Last week, Schumer called on NPS Director Jonathan B. Jarvis to waive this re-review of the project to allow construction to go forward immediately and not hold up the construction timeframe. Schumer noted that a second round of redundant approvals could have delayed the project significantly and threatened the ability of the studio to allow production companies to use the lot for the lucrative summer season of 2013.