Astoria’s Kaufman Studios now home to NYC’s first backlot

Senator Chuck Schumer cut the ribbon on Astoria's Kaufman Studios new backlot, with Sesame Street muppet Grover looking over his shoulder. Credit: Bess Adler, Metro
Senator Chuck Schumer cut the ribbon on Astoria’s Kaufman Studios new backlot, with Sesame Street muppet Grover looking over his shoulder.
Credit: Bess Adler, Metro

As of Tuesday, New York City has its very first studio backlot.

Kaufman Studios, the production home of Sesame Street since 1992, cut the ribbon on their new 34,800-square-foot, block-long backlot on 35th Ave. in Astoria, Queens.

“It’s a gamechanger for New York,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer, as he cut the red ribbon in front of the lot’s curlicued grey gate. The Sesame Street muppet Grover hovered over his shoulder.

New York is home to a handful of big studios: Steiner Studios in Brooklyn, where the HBO show “Girls” is filmed; Silvercup Studios in Long Island City, where Tina Fey’s show “30 Rock” was filmed; and Kaufman Studios, home not only to Sesame Street, but also the Netflix show set in a women’s prison, “Orange Is the New Black.”

And both the city and the state have been pursuing various measures in the last several years to entice more productions to the area, from statewide tax credits for “below the line” costs: the salaries of “the blue collar workers,” State Senator Michael Gianaris noted, like caterers and set builders.

City government has also established incentives for the film industry, through the Mayor’s Office of Film and Television as well as the City Council’s Arts Committee, which Queens Councilman Jimmy van Bramer chairs.

Van Bramer was the excited host of the backlot’s ribbon-cutting.

“They already do big movies, they’ve got ‘Men In Black III’-caliber movies,” Van Bramer said proudly of Kaufman Studios. “But this is going to allow them to do even more going forward which is really important.”

Kaufman Studio’s president, Hal Rosenbluth, said the studio is already getting calls from new productions that have not filmed with the studio previously but are interested in the backlot.

“Since we put up the construction gate every production that has been here has utilized the street for a shot of some kind,” Rosenbluth said. “Rehearsals or small car shots or special effects shots putting up the big green screen and dropping actors in front of the green screen over and over again.”

Schumer also referenced his long-standing relationship with George Kaufman, who founded the studio 30 years ago and who, Schumer said, backed his very first campaign in 1980, when no one else believed he could win. Now the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate, Schumer recently persuaded the National Parks Service to extend the Kaufman Studios’ lease of the backlot street from a 40-year lease to a 99-year lease.

“I like to see New York be No. 1 in everything,” Schumer said.

“Hollywood watch out!” he added. “I think [Councilman Jimmy van Bramer] said that we want to be known as Hollywood East. I predict that a few decades from now, Hollywood will be known as New York West.”

Schumer recounted a recent visit to Kaufman where he filmed a cameo for the new Amazon show “Alpha House.” The cameo apparently plays off of Schumer’s reputation as a matchmaker with his staffers.

“We have better talent than they do, let’s face it,” Schumer said. “So many people who have to work in California, the talent, want to be here.”

Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

MTA announces service changes for Sunday

The MTA has announced service changes ahead of Sunday's People's Climate March, which will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday. Riders using…

Local

NYPD launches Twitter account for L train

The NYPD recently launched a Twitter handle dedicated to the L train and its riders. According to @NYPDLtrain, officers went underground Thursday morning to hand…

Local

Bushwick community space offers activists a place to…

A new Bushwick community space offers community activists to meet, create, learn and throw back a few cold ones. MayDay, located 214 Starr Street in Bushwick,…

Local

Activists gearing up for Sunday's "historic" People's Climate…

If all goes according to plan, more than 100,000 people will gather near Central Park West on Sunday morning and march through midtown to raise…

Movies

Kevin Smith makes peace with the Internet

I was thinking about Ain't It Cool News and Harry Knowles last night, wondering if anyone from Ain't It Cool had reviewed my new movie…

Movies

Art imitates life in 'Swim Little Fish Swim'

There's a certain comfort to be taken in finding that young artists are still moving to New York and trying to make it — and…

Movies

Review: Terry Gilliam's 'The Zero Theorem' is better…

Terry Gilliam's latest, "The Zero Theorem," concerns a reclusive malcontent (Christoph Waltz) struggling with the search for the meaning of life.

Music

Esperanza Spalding and a being called Emily get…

Esperanza Spalding is about to spiral off in a brand new direction that may or may include an alter ego named Emily.

NFL

Oday Aboushi ready for increased role, and to…

Oday Aboushi might feel comfortable enough to engage in some trash talk the next time he is on the field.

NFL

Giants vs. Texans: 3 things to watch

The Giants host the surprising Texans (2-0) in what may already be a must-win game for Big Blue.

NFL

Eric Decker misses practice again, could miss Monday

Jets wide receiver Eric Decker missed practice Thursday as he continues to rehab a hamstring injury suffered last Sunday.

MLB

Derek Jeter still focused on baseball as final…

Derek Jeter has effectively hid his emotions for 20 years in the Bronx.

Parenting

A sneaky way to serve kids fruits and…

"My First Juices and Smoothies" gives smoothie recipes for kids.

Style

3 things we love from Day 1 of…

The highlights from Day 1 of Milan Fashion Week.

Sex

Why don't more couples use condoms?

  Call it the “condom moment.” That’s the name the authors of a new study have given to the pivotal conversation every couple should be…

Sex

Need an idea for a first date? Here's…

Picture your idea of a nice first date. Is it dinner and a movie? A visit to an interesting museum exhibit? Instead, an expert on…