“I know they call us ‘Hollywood East’ but soon they’ll be calling Hollywood ‘New York City West’,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) joked in Kaufman Studio’s Stage K on Tuesday.
The senator, joined by founder George Kaufman, Kaufman Astoria Studios President Hal Rosebluth and city and state representatives, cut the ribbon on Kaufman Studios’ new outdoor lot — the first backlot ever in New York City.
“The addition of New York City’s first-ver outdoor sound stage puts Astoria on the map when it comes to producing blockbuster movies in the United States,” said Councilman and Chairman of the Cultural Affairs Committee Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside). “By expanding Kaufman Astoria Studios we are continuing the resurgence of the arts that has spurred a renaissance here in Astoria. From a dormant industrial building Kaufman has built a world-class institution that has helped Western Queens become ‘Hollywood East.’”
Kaufman Astoria Studios has been considered a vital part of the city’s culture and having an outdoor stage will allow for many more films and television shows to be shot there.
Though elected officials have hailed Kaufman Astoria Studios as a staple in the neighborhood, there have been residents who complain that the massive campus limits parking, which has led to fist-fights and frustration.
State Sen. Mike Gianaris (D-Astoria), who has spent many hours mediating the town-studio tension, said that the new outdoor lot is even more important for those living near the film studio.
“I have gotten calls complaining about parking and I have to say that whenever I get one of those calls, I smile a little because for every call I get, Kaufman is securing 10 jobs for New Yorkers,” he said. “So we will continue to ask trucks parked in the area to respect the neighborhood but I couldn’t be happier with all that this studio has brought to us.”
The 34,800-square-foot backlot allows productions to construct temporary outdoor sets and shoot exterior and special effects shots within the campus.
What’s more, a closed outdoor stage will limit the amount of street closures that occur when filmmakers need to shoot a scene outside.
The lot comes with a dramatically lit steel truss that rises 40 feet above the street and serves as a working catwalk for productions.
The gate, designed by David Rockwell of the Rockwell Group, is reminiscent of those found in Hollywood.
“Our design for the gateways was inspired by classic old Hollywood studio gates, and was also informed by the muscular character and distinctive ‘New Yorkness’ of the surrounding buildings,” Rockwell said,
After speeches were made, the crowd gathered at the foot of the truss to cut the ribbon and were joined by Grover from the classic children’s television show “Sesame Street” and Dascha Polanco, a star in the Netflix hit series “Orange is the New Black.”
Both shows shoot on the Kaufman Astoria Studios stages.
“The backlot at Kaufman Astoria Studios is going to add to the life of the campus and will help us attract more productions to New York,” Kaufman said. “When I first came here in the early 1980s, I knew that we had the potential to turn this neighborhood into a thriving production, arts and cultural district for the city and I am proud to see that vision is a reality today.”