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Queens Chronicle

Astoria welcomes new art district

Officials call neighborhood a cultural and historical place for art community

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Posted: Thursday, April 3, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 1:00 pm, Thu Apr 10, 2014.

There’s a new district in town.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), chairman of the Cultural Affairs Committee, announced the designation of the Kaufman Arts District in Astoria.

“This corner of Queens has quickly become a vibrant community of cultural venues and arts organizations that have attracted some of our generation’s greatest artists,” Van Bramer said during the Friday morning event. “Within the borough’s first official arts district, our goals will be to nurture the existing artists and arts organizations, to draw additional, cutting-edge arts groups here and to create an environment in which artistic work will flourish.”

Anchored by Kaufman Astoria Studios and the Museum of the Moving Image, the Kaufman Arts District’s mission will be to advance and promote the area as a world-class, vibrant cultural destination and home for creative industries.

The area is also home to the highly regarded Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, the Astor Room — a restaurant that is housed in the former Paramount commissary — Studio Square, the Queens Council on the Arts, UA Kaufman Astoria Cinemas, the Theater Development Fund’s costume collection and the Astoria Performing Arts Center.

The district is bounded by the bustling 31st Street — where the main entrances to the museum and the studio are — to the west, 34th Avenue to the north, Steinway Street to the east and 37th Avenue to the south.

“As a borough resident who was born and raised only a few block from here, I am proud to say that I helped play a major role in working with the partners to make this day a reality,” Van Bramer, who tried on a vintage ringmaster jacket during the ceremony, said.

Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) said the district will elevate the already well-known area even more.

“The new Kaufman Arts District is a wonderful opportunity to showcase and foster Western Queens’ continued rise as an arts and culture destination,” she said. “The designation will recognize that the area surrounding Kaufman Astoria Studios has been transformed by the hard work of so many into a world-class, vibrant cultural and arts district in the heart of Astoria.”

While institutions such as Kaufman have received some flack from surrounding neighbors for taking away parking spaces to accommodate shoots, electeds including state Sen. Mike Gianaris (D-Astoria) assert that the pros outbalance the cons.

“The arts have always been at the heart of Astoria’s cultural heritage, thanks in no small part to the presence of Kaufman Astoria Studios,” he said. “Over the years Kaufman and Western Queens have blossomed side by side into a citywide landmark and a neighborhood that doubles as a world-class destination of the arts. It is only right that the Kaufman Arts District will officially proclaim that our community is home to one of the great cultural centers in the world, something all who live here have known for a long time.”

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