By DAVID BELTRAN
Elected officials cut the ribbon to the city’s first outdoor studio lot Tuesday at Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens which officials hope will attract more movie and TV producers.
In a contest of florid rhetoric, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer one-upped Queens City Councilman Jimmie van Bramer who had dubbed the facility “Hollywood East.”
“I predict,” said Schumer “that a few decades from now, Hollywood will be known as New York West.”
The 34,800 square-foot lot features a large gated entrance and a 40-foot high catwalk with the Kaufman name towering over the 35th Avenue entrance. Construction for the lot began in July but films such as “Eat, Pray, Love” and “Men in Black 3” have been produced at the studio in recent years.
The studio, which has been the home of “Sesame Street” for over 20 years, has spurred the development of many businesses and cultural institutions in the area, said van Bramer. Since the studio was taken over by George Kaufman 30 years ago, the area has seen the creation of the Frank Sinatra school of the Arts and the Museum of the Moving Image.
“What Kaufman Astoria Studios has spurred here is nothing short of a miracle,” said Van Bramer. “When you saw what 35th avenue looked like 35 years ago…they have really transformed the area.”
The backlot allows producers to shoot outdoor scenes and special effects shots in a studio setting instead of having to shut down streets in the city. However, the backlot required the closing of 36th street between 34th and 35th avenues with the blocks adjacent to the studio being “no standing zones” and production trucks occupying many parking spots.
State Senator Michael Gianaris, who grew up in Astoria, said his office receives complaints about parking spots being lost to film production.
“…And every time that happens, a big smile comes on my face because I know that every complaint that’s ten jobs in our community that we have,” he said. “And so I say, bring on those complaints.”
Hal Rosenbluth, president of the studios, said the backlot helps attract productions to New York but can also be used for other activities. Rosenbluth said the studio is working with the Queens Council of the Arts to “do some type of arts festival” and is also hoping to do an outdoor concert with the Frank Sinatra high school.
“We see this not as not only a scenario for shooting production,” said Rosenbluth, “but also as a way to bring the community in as part of it.”