With numerous hit shows being filmed at western Queens’ two studios— Silvercup and Kaufman Astoria— Astoria and Long Island City have become a hub for development.
At Long Island City’s Silvercup Studios, shows currently in production include CBS’ “Madam Secretary,” ABC’s “Quantico” and HBO’s “Divorce.” And Kaufman Astoria Studios’ current roster includes Fox’s “Shades of Blue,” Netflix’s “Orange Is The New Black” and Showtime’s “The Affair.”
Since Kaufman Astoria Studios was founded in 1920 and Silvercup Studios, which is the largest studio in the five boroughs, was built in 1983 at a former bakery building, the studios have attracted businesses, restaurants and art groups to the up-and-coming residential areas where they are located. However, the influx didn’t occur until 2004, when the state implemented a tax incentive to spur film and TV production. That incentive, now an annual $420 million, has allowed for hit shows and movies to be filmed at the studios, leading to the increase in young adult and families wanting to live in the area.
The increase in films has resulted in an increase in staff and an increase in working commuters every day. According to Kaufman Astoria Studios executives, between 200 and 400 people work on an average television series—including writers, costume and set designers, location scouts and production assistants.
Studio workers are not the only reason for western Queens’ increase in foot traffic. Local businesses have sprouted up in the neighborhood to be in close proximity to Kaufman Astoria Studios and Silvercup Studios, and existing businesses said that the studios have brought in new customers.
The owner of LIC Market, which is just two blocks down from Silvercup, said that the eatery has received approximately 20 percent of its business from the studio and gets calls throughout the day from the studio for catered lunches for the crew.
Adding to the commercial businesses in the area is the Australian café Toby’s Estate Coffee, which opened last month on Jackson Avenue, just blocks away from Silvercup; and Eleni Goros’ café Sweet Scene, which opened a few blocks from Kaufman Astoria Studios last August.
“George Kaufman’s plan was to not only revitalize the studio and a piece of history, but to make the studio an anchor for revitalizing the whole neighborhood,” said Hal G. Rosenbluth, CEO and president of Kaufman Astoria Studios. “We’ve done that by bringing in businesses like the movie theatre and restaurants like the Astor Room and Tacuba. We also work with and support neighborhood cultural institutions like the Museum of the Moving Image and Queens Council on the Arts. The combination has fostered a vibrant creative community and encourages more like-minded businesses to locate here.”
Not only is western Queens seeing a boom in commercial businesses, but the studios have also contributed to residential development.
Silvercup Studios owners Alan and Stuart Suna spent $80 million to build The Harrison, a 27-story, 120-unit property on 44th Drive in Long Island City. The condominiums, ranging from $495,000 to $2.5 million, went on sale in September. The building is projected to be completed this June and 60 percent of the units have already been sold. Due to the city’s rezoning of the area in 2001, which enabled developers to construct more cheaply than in Brooklyn and Manhattan, The Harrison will stand taller than The View, an 18-story building that is currently the tallest condo in Long Island City.
Kaufman Astoria Studios’ owner George S. Kaufman, on the other hand, owns The Marx, a 33-unit, seven-story boutique condominium, directly across the street from the studio. The building, which opened in December, was sold out within a month.
In addition to the studios bringing new condo units to the neighborhood, Valyrian Capital and Volmar Construction are contributing an eight-story, 64-unit building, which is slated to open at the end of the year. However, rather than selling, the developers are renting apartments for $2,400 to $3,400 per month.
And the studios intend to continue spearheading both commercial and residential development in the community.
“In recognition of the neighborhood’s creative character, the city designated this Kaufman Arts District, which has spurred even more interest in this community,” Rosenbluth said. “Young people and families are moving here and it’s become a popular destination for visitors. It has really fulfilled George Kaufman’s original vision and we look forward to building on this success.”
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