After Schumer, Maloney push, NPS approves Kaufman Astoria Studios' application for a 99-year lease term

Nov 9, 2012
Press Contact: 
Brice Peyre (212) 860-0606

NEW YORK - U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney today announced that the National Park Service (NPS) has approved New York City’s application for a 99 year lease term extension for the Kaufman Astoria Studios under the Historic Surplus Property Program. Kaufman Astoria Studios was designated a National Historic District in 1978. Earlier in October, Schumer and Maloney asked NPS to approve this application because it would allow the studios to expand its business and provide long term investments in the New York City area. With the announcement of a new 99 year lease term, Kaufman Astoria Studios’ lease will now expire in 2099.  Extending the lease by 50 years will allow for the studio to plan better for the long term and make it easier to access the capital they need to grow and expand. 

“This lease term extension will give Kaufman Astoria Studios the security and predictability it needs to grow, create more jobs and expand its business in Queens,” said Schumer. “This Studio is full of history and with New York City’s growing film industry, I am pleased that the National Park Service has said ‘lights, camera, action’ for this new extended lease. I am certain that Kaufman Astoria Studios will continue to make great films and add to New York City’s economy until the year 2099.”

“I applaud the decision by the National Parks Service to green-light Kaufman Astoria Studios’ lease extension,” said Maloney. “Extending the lease will allow the Studios to remain a world-class movie-making facility for generations to come.  Best of all, the Studios will continue generating new jobs in an important industry in New York City, and those jobs will be created right here in Queens!”

Kaufman Astoria Studios has been making entertainment history for 90 years. Its doors were opened by the legendary Adolph Zuckor in 1920. Eventually, the studio became a home for Paramount Pictures, and during the next 20 years, over 120 silent and sound films were produced at the studio.  At the start of WWII, the studio was taken over by the U.S. Signal Corps and became known as the Army Pictorial Center.  The building eventually fell into disuse, until a non-profit foundation re-opened the big stage in 1977 for the production of "The Wiz."  In 1980, New York City turned to real estate developer George S. Kaufman to renovate, expand and revive this national landmark. Working with many interested organizations, he was able to achieve his vision of a full-service, comprehensive studio capable of handling any type, size and style of production.  Today, Kaufman Astoria Studios is the location for major motion pictures, independent films, television shows and commercials. Kaufman’s stages have been graced by stars such as Bill Cosby, Harrison Ford, Meryl Streep, Al Pacino, Demi Moore and the cast of Sesame Street.

New York City’s TV and film industry is booming. According to the New York Daily News, in 2011 188 films and a record 23 primetime TV shows were shot in New York City. Kaufman Astoria Studios already spent $23 million on a new indoor film and TV studio in 2010. Recently, Schumer secured NPS approval for Kaufman Astoria Studios’ planned outdoor lot expansion.  Another major movie studio in New York, Steiner Studios, recently announced that it would be adding five soundstages, at 45,000 square feet, to its facilities at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Earlier in October, Schumer and Maloney called on NPS to approve NYC’s application at the Kaufman Astoria Studios site for a 99 year lease term extension under the Historic Surplus Property Program. The site had only a 49 year lease term that expired in 2049. The studio wanted an extended lease so that they could appropriately plan for the future.  A longer term lease also allows them more access to capital. 

After their push, Schumer and Maloney today announced that NPS approved the lease extension for Kaufman Astoria Studios. Schumer and Maloney explained that this is great news for Queens as well as the rest of New York City because the new lease term will aid New York City’s economy by providing hundreds of jobs.

A copy of Schumer and Maloney’s original request to NPS can be found below:

 

 Dear Director Jarvis,

We write to support the application of New York City at the Kaufman Astoria Studios (KAS) site for a 99 year lease term extension under the Historic Surplus Property Program. As representatives of the area who value the historical significance and economic impact of the site, we encourage you to consider this request. We appreciate the willingness of your staff to provide information to our offices, and especially to participate in a phone call with our offices and with the property managers to discuss the National Park Service program.

Film and television are an important and growing industry for New York City. A long term lease term at KAS will help the studio to operate and expand its business, and allow for continued and new capital investment in its properties. On the seven stages housed at KAS, each production can employ hundreds of people, who in turn positively impact the neighborhood by patronizing neighborhood restaurants and shops as well as local vendors such as hardware stores, lumber shops, clothing stores, tailors, dry cleaners. In addition, Astoria Studios has made a commitment to several education outreach initiatives in the area, such as programs participating in local school’s Career Days and sponsoring internship programs.

As a National Historic Landmark it is important to preserve the property, which the current owners have made a priority. For more than 90 years the studio has been making film history, including as an early site for Paramount Pictures, for its use by the U.S. Signal Corps for wartime training films, and recently for such productions as the Cosby Show, Sesame Street, and blockbuster films like Eat, Pray, Love, and Men In Black 3. Given its use during World War II and throughout other significant U.S. events, the studio has done a great job preserving the property for posterity. 

We reiterate our support for the lease extension and thank you for your attention to this matter.

 

Sincerely,

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney