Federal red tape holds up city’s first outdoor film studio

Senator Charles Schumer and other local representatives are calling on the National Park Service (NPS) to green light construction of an outdoor production studio outside of Kaufman Astoria Studios.
The project would close 36th Street between 35th and 36th avenues in Astoria for the studio, which would be guarded by what speakers called an iconic new gate.
It is the gate that’s holding up the $2 million project, however, after minor changes to its appearance triggered NPS to call for a renewed review after construction was already reviewed and approved.
“The one thing California has over us is that they have an outdoor movie studio,” Schumer said. “We’ve lagged behind Hollywood as the center of film and television for this reason, because they want to be in New York. They know the talent is here.”
If the project is approved, the studio will open for the summer of 2013 and create thousands of jobs over the next year, Schumer said.
Outdoor studios allow for exterior and special effects shots. The project is aimed at attracting film and television clients who might otherwise go to Los Angeles, New Orleans, or other cities with outdoor studios.
“It would be a destination not only for film and TV clients, but for tourists,” Schumer said. “But unfortunately, instead of going forward, this project has been held up by needless delays and a sea of bureaucratic red tape that could postpone construction and threaten the ability of the studio to allow filming here by the summer of 2013.”
Schumer pointed out that New York is doing well in film and television, with 188 films and 23 primetime television shows shot in the city in 2011. However, clients are expressing interest in filming in the outdoor studio, he said, but scheduling can’t be secured until the project is approved.
In the 1970s, NPS deeded the land outside Kaufman Astoria to New York City with the stipulation that the site, which was a silent film mecca in the 1920s, continue to be used for filming.
According to the deed, NPS must sign off on projects to assure that the land is being used for that purpose.
Although NPS already approved the project, when the Public Design Commission proposed slight changes to give the gate a grittier, more industrial look, the agency called for a completely new review of the project.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who also spoke at the press conference, grew up in Astoria and said he used to ride bikes with his sister along 30th Avenue in the 1970s, when the area looked abandoned.
“Like an old warehouse, business, factory district with nothing going on,” he said. “And to see 35th Avenue reborn the way you see it today, it would not have happened without Kaufman Astoria and the Museum of Moving Image.”
“But we can’t have it as good as we want it to be without this outdoor soundstage and studio,” he said.

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