Arts and Culture, Astoria, Movies
Jul 27, 2013

What’s Up With Kaufman Astoria Studios and the Now Closed 36th Street

An update on what’s happening in and around Kaufman Astoria Studios in July 2013.

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We got an email from a rep from Kaufman Astoria Studios about what’s happening these days with the Studios and the totally demapped/closed 36th Street between 34th and 35th Avenues. The newness of the look—a big plywood fence blocking off the street—is a bit jarring for those of us that have spent time down in that area over many years, but that will change with a new gate to come. And no worries about accessing The Astor Room—the street closing doesn’t close them off from the rest of the world, and you can still enter and enjoy yourself (and have some cocktails and oysters, yum).

On the subject of the plywood fence: the Studios plan to build “an iconic entry gate similar to closed studio lots in Los Angeles.” As a reminder, here is a photo of the planned gate:

IMAGE COURTESY OF ROCKWELL GROUP/ARCHTAGON

IMAGE COURTESY OF ROCKWELL GROUP/ARCHTAGON

So yeah, there will be what looks like a guard booth and a much more open feel that plywood gives.

Here are more details:

Construction just began last week on this new back lot. The studio will allow productions to shoot exterior and special effects shots within the campus conveniently located adjacent to the sound stages. The new back lot will be 60 feet wide and 580 feet long. Kaufman Astoria Studios worked with the city and David Rockwell, an award-winning architectural firm to design the entry gate and rear gate as well as the streetscape of the studio lot.

It will run from 35th Avenue to 34th Avenue and will offer filmmakers a controlled outdoor environment on which temporary sets can be constructed, stunts and car chases can be staged, and large-scale equipment can be used. The working back lot will create a totally unique production opportunity in New York that will allow Kaufman Astoria Studios to continue to attract world-class films and television series.

Most recent films include Men in Black III, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The Smurfs, and The Bourne Legacy. The studios are now home to such favorites as Sesame Street, Nurse Jackie, Amazon’s new series Alpha House, and Netflix’s hot new series, Orange is the New Black, which, it was just announced, will be renewed for a second season.

The completion of the outdoor lot this year is another step in the completion of the overall vision for the KAS campus real estate developer George Kaufman started over 30 years ago. Over the past several years, this part of Astoria located in and around Kaufman Astoria Studios has grown into a vibrant arts and cultural campus due to the tenacity Mr. Kaufman.

Since taking over the studio in the early 1980’s, George altered the area from a lone, dilapidated building into a full-service production center capable of handling any type, size and style of production, while also reinvigorating the entire neighborhood. The studio has created hundreds of jobs, provided office space for new tenants and attracted numerous businesses to the neighborhood, including national retailers, restaurants and a multiplex theater.

The Kaufman Astoria Studios campus is also home to The Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, The Museum of Moving Image and The Theatre Development Fund’s 80,000 piece Costume Collection. Additionally, the Astoria Performing Arts Center has offices within KAS and Queens Council on the Arts just moved into a brand new, street-level space on 37th Street and 35th Ave this spring (owned by the studio).

So there you have it. I found it interesting that Kaufman Astoria Studios considers themselves as part of a greater campus incorporating the elements outlined above. No wonder Queens Council on the Arts chose to make their new home here—things are really happening in all aspects of the arts in Astoria.

What do you think of all these changes in the area? Leave us a comment or reply via twitter at @weheartastoria!

About Meg Cotner

Meg Cotner was trained as a harpsichordist and now works as a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of "Food Lovers' Guide to Queens," and is a skilled and avid home cook, baker, and preserver.

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