Sunnyside Community Divided Over New $275M East End Studios Development

Rendering of the East End Studios Sunnyside Campus. Photo: Office of the Mayor website


Mayor Eric Adams, joined by labor leaders and representatives from the film and TV industry, marked a significant milestone on Wednesday, November 15th, as they broke ground on the $275 million East End Studios Sunnyside Campus construction project.

This venture represents the fourth studio production site in western Queens, solidifying the area’s growing prominence in the entertainment industry. While some residents and leaders welcome the opportunities the project might bring, others express concerns about potential neighborhood changes.

There are two key factors behind the rise of studio production sites in western Queens. One is the lower cost of industrial development in comparison with Manhattan.

According to a recent report by the leading industrial real estate brokerage AEBOV, the median asking price of industrial space per square foot (PPSF) in Queens is $454, compared with $692 PPSF of space in Manhattan.

Another factor promoting studio production development is Governor Hochul’s decision earlier this year to increase the film production incentive from $420 million to $700 million annually. Moreover, the percentage of film tax credit that removes a portion of the income tax owed to the state by the production company, got a notable boost, rising from 25% to 30%.

The film tax credit program has attracted many studio production companies to open sites in New York City and allowed them to invest generously in high-tech facilities and equipment.

The East End Studios Sunnyside Campus will be a Class A project of 340,000 square feet, with three full-service ground-floor sound stages. The new facility will have extended reality and virtual reality infrastructure, including access to shoot on a virtual stage and high-speed fiber connectivity with scalable production-level internet.

The new development has critics within the local community. Some neighbors expressed concern about the potential effects of this lavish studio production development on their living expenses.

Raquel Murillo, 49, Sunnyside resident for almost a decade, articulated her worry about an impending rent increase, fearing that the influx of a high-end industry might contribute to the gentrification of the neighborhood.

“I’m concerned that the introduction of such a luxurious project will drive up our rents,” Murillo said in an interview. “It can make it harder for long-time residents like my family and I to afford living here.”

William Durham, 66, resident of Sunnyside for 20 years, reflected on the current calm environment of the neighborhood and voiced apprehension about the transformation it might undergo once the studio is operational.

“I stayed here for the quiet atmosphere. I fear everything will change–the traffic, the crowds, the businesses, all to accommodate the demands of the show people rather than considering the well-being of us, the locals,” Durham said.

Despite these concerns, there are also residents and leaders who view the studio development as a positive change for the community.

Anthony Sanchez, 26, welcomes the prospect of increased activity that a project of this caliber can bring.

“It’s exciting to learn that our neighborhood can become a hub for film production. I think it will bring more life to the community,” said Sanchez. “It can attract attention to local businesses or promote the growth of new ones too.”

According to Mayor Adams, the project promises to offer over 1,000 construction jobs and roughly 750 permanent full-time jobs. This shows advancement in the job recovery efforts in the city’s arts and entertainment sector, which is still struggling to recover from the pandemic and industry strikes.

Diana Kichler, Sunnyside representative of the Land Use and Housing Committee of Community Board 2, emphasized the potential economic benefits and job opportunities that the studio development might generate for the area.

“We’re thrilled to contribute to the approval of the East End Studios Sunnyside Campus project,” said Kichler in an interview. “This development will not only provide a boost to our local economy but also create numerous jobs for our residents.”

Despite the enthusiastic support of the community board for the project, Kichler and other board members acknowledge the concerns of residents, promising to engage in more dialogue and efforts to ease the worries of rent spikes and unwanted changes.

“While the project takes shape, it’s important to realize it’s not just a studio but a gateway to new possibilities for our community,” said Kichler. “Together, we’ll navigate the changes, ensuring a balance that preserves our neighborhood’s essence while still embracing the opportunities it brings.”