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Thread: Astoria Development

  1. #31
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Studio City: Film production center Kaufman Astoria Studios writes script for growth in nabe

    BY Jason Sheftell


    Some New York neighborhoods rely on economic engines. Manhattan’s Flatiron has Union Square and shopping up and down lower Fifth Ave.

    Others need vision, like downtown Brooklyn with Atlantic Yards, a basketball stadium and zoning that favors residential towers.

    What happens, though, when a neighborhood has both? The answer lies in a pocket of Astoria surrounding the Kaufman Astoria Studios, the city’s oldest functioning movie studio.

    In the past three years, this amenity-filled micro-neighborhood around 34th and 36th Aves. and 33rd and 35th Sts. has turned into one of the city’s top real estate success stories. It has a 14-theater multiplex, the city’s newest performing arts high school, national and local restaurants, including the Studio Square beer garden, and the Museum of the Moving Image, an underrated institution undergoing a $60 million renovation. Real estate values on brick or wood attached homes are stable at $625,000, with three-bedroom rentals trading at $2,300. Growth continues in the area, which has managed to avoid “hipster” stigmas and real estate crashes. The hulking gray full block movie studio clearly dominates the vicinity.

    On a freezing Saturday, streets are crowded with locals, families from other boroughs and tourists enjoying what a few years back was a warehouse-driven neighborhood. If you blink, celebrities like Edie Falco, star of Showtime’s “Nurse Jackie,” currently filming its second season at the studio, might walk by.

    This transition didn’t happen overnight, and most locals, even those who’ve lived there 10 years, don’t know how this neighborhood came to be.

    “The Museum of the Moving Image is a real asset,” says Nancy Silverman, a
    13-year Astoria resident who went to graduate school at NYU. “I see independent films there. I don’t think the studio has much of an impact, though.”

    Silverman, like many neighbors, was surprised to find out Kaufman Astoria Studios controlled the land the museum sits on and was responsible for bringing most of the retail and culture to the area.

    As part of real estate developer George Kaufman’s original vision, the studio and sound stages became the engine for neighborhood growth. Acting as a movie studio and a real estate company, Kaufman owns 42,000 square feet of retail space, and is planning a hotel and residential complex to fill out the once deserted area. In addition, Kaufman owned the land where the performing arts high school, the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, sits.

    “The studio is the revenue generator for the entire area,” says Kaufman Astoria president Hal G. Rosenbluth. “The idea was to make film production viable in New York City again, and then merge the studio with the neighborhood. When we took over in 1980, we couldn’t get anyone to cross the Queensboro Bridge. It’s easier now. Sure, we could have sold the land the school was on for $8 million. But a school, what’s better for an area than that? The credit goes to George [Kaufman]. He understood that the studio could be a catalyst for reinvigorating development for the entire community.”

    George Kaufman took over the studio in 1980. A kid from the lower East Side who started developing real estate in New York City in his early 20s, Kaufman got his start in the business land-banking real estate in Burbank, Calif., for Warner Bros. Similar in concept to the Century City residential, retail and commercial settlement near a movie studio in central Los Angeles, the Burbank strategy intended to intertwine real estate with a film studio and area growth. When the studio changed leadership, Kaufman was given $2 million for his work and began investing in his hometown, New York.

    “I bought buildings all over the city and started leasing commercial space in Manhattan,” says Kaufman, whose Kaufman Organization owns over 5 million square feet of New York real estate. “It wasn’t as if I was waiting to buy a movie studio, but when it came available, I thought I could do some good.”

    At the time, Astoria Studios was in disrepair. Having been declared a landmark by the state in 1976, it barely escaped being torn down to make way for affordable housing. Silent movies with Rudolph Valentino and talking comedies with the Marx Brothers filmed there in the 1920s and ’30s. From 1942-70, the Army took over the studio, producing propaganda films from World War II to Vietnam. When the Army gave up the facility, it became abandoned, practically halting residential improvement in the area. Kaufman wanted that to change.

    “Everyone wants to be near a movie studio,” says Kaufman, who was recently named a “Living” New York City Landmark. “It’s sexy. I saw that in California. A key was getting the city and state to make it less expensive to make movies with tax credits. Once the studio was up, we could focus on working on the neighborhood.”

    An early movie made under Kaufman was “The Cotton Club” (1984), directed by Francis Ford Coppola. It filmed while Kaufman repaired the building. More top directors followed, including Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese. The upgrade to the area came later, as it took Kaufman’s team time to bring in such national chains as Applebee’s and Starbucks, a 14-screen United Artists multiplex and a gym called Evolution, where John Travolta worked out while filming last year’s “Taking of Pelham 1 2 3.”

    “This area has seen an explosion, and we haven’t taken as much of a hit by the recession,” says Astoria native Mario Tsikis, owner/broker of Citi Zone Realty, who moved his office across the street from the studio because of the area’s growth potential. “Four years ago, no one wanted to live here. Now they ask for it specifically.”

    Residents agree. Actress Erin Outlund has lived in four Astoria apartments in three years. She now lives on 35th St. near 34th Ave., a street she waited for because of its proximity to central Astoria and location between several subway lines and near the movie theater.

    “Three years ago I lived by 36th Ave. and it was sketchy and dark,” says Outlund, whose roommate has been a stand-in for several productions filmed at Kaufman. “It’s not that way anymore.”

    While local businesses such as Studio Square, a beer garden that opened two years ago on 36th St., prosper, an area towards Queens Plaza characterized by the city as an “Industrial Business Zone” feels out of place and barren. Rumors of a street closing to secure the studio within a private lot concern some locals. Painting the history of the movie studio on its giant walls could make some streets more inviting.

    “The old guard wants things to stay the same, but the newcomers come here for the amenities and the excitement,” says Tsikis. “We’re the same 10-minute train ride to midtown as Williamsburg is to downtown but we’re half the price. That’s reason enough to look here.”

    Keeping with the area’s history, traditional businesses such as furniture repair, embroidery, limousine services and auto body shops still maintain a presence. Not only do business owners value the increase in pedestrian traffic and proximity to midtown, they see the area growing as have other New York neighborhoods that have undergone zoning changes favoring mixed-use residential and commercial, as parts of this one may.

    “I was in Chelsea 20 years ago when no one would go there but prostitutes,” says FIT professor Eli Rios, an Astoria resident who owns E.C.R. Antique Conservation and Restoration, and the Aurora Gallery, the area’s first art space. “This place got rid of that years back. We have vintage stores. Kaufman Studios started it all. In five years, all these buildings will be bought up and *everyone will want to be here.”

  2. #32

  3. #33

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    I really like that building. Funny one of the best residential's in the entire City is in Astoria.

  4. #34
    Build the Tower Verre antinimby's Avatar
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    And socialite Amanda Burden and her stooges over at City Planning made sure there'll be no more of that by rezoning and putting height limits in Astoria.

  5. #35

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    The ironic thing is that, yes, the first "finger building" in a neighborhood does look awkward. But when you have more, an area gets filled in and looks better.

    Sadly, Burden & Co. see the emergence of one finger in any neighborhood to mean that all forthcoming tall buildings will be equally awkward and out of place. In fact, the more you have, the better the entire tout ensemble usually looks. So by downzoning to prevent fingers, you're guaranteeing that the existing fingers remain fingers rather than becoming a better-integrated part of the neighborhood's built environment.

  6. #36
    Crabby airline hostess - stache's Avatar
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    She did that because of neighborhood pressure.

  7. #37
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    King of Astoria Skyline Gets a Little Bit Cheaper

    January 25, 2010, by Joey



    It's no surprise that one of Queens' tallest and most expensive new condo buildings is on the water facing Manhattan, but here's the shocker: It's not in Long Island City. The building is at 11-24 31st Avenue in a quiet corner of Astoria near Socrates Sculpture Park, and if a finger building is a tall and skinny creation that sticks out over its neighbors, then this is a whole fist. Blog liQcity has been following the East River Tower, recently writing: "This sharply angled monolith is visible from miles away, especially Manhattan, and is the highest point in the LIC/Astoria skyline. Active sales listings show asking prices of roughly $772/SF. Quite steep for that area..." Maybe the reps were reading: Prices were just cut on nearly all of the 38 active listings, but only by about 10%, according to StreetEasy. Prices now range from $385,000 for a 700-square-foot 1BR to $1.195 million for the big-ticket stuff. The views are out of control, but there's a bit of a fish-out-of-water vibe, no?

    11-24 31st Avenue [StreetEasy]
    11-24 31st Avenue [Metropolis Realty]

    http://curbed.com/archives/2010/01/2...it_cheaper.php

  8. #38
    Senior Member DKNY617's Avatar
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    Does anyone know of the height limit that they placed in Astoria, how high it is?

  9. #39
    Build the Tower Verre antinimby's Avatar
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    The height limits vary from 24 feet (about 2 stories) to 80 feet (about 8 stories) depending on the street/area.

    In general, smaller side streets get downzoned in FAR and shorter height limits placed on them and wider boulevards maybe get a slight upzoned in FAR and the higher height limit of 8 stories.

    Remember, there were no height limits before.

    That is generally what City Planning under socialite Amanda Burden have done to most of the city with their rezonings.

    You can read all about it here.

  10. #40
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    Default 30th Street and 30th Drive, Astoria


  11. #41
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Thumbs down

    I detest that stepping down feature, where the first floor is sunk into the ground. You also see that in a number of apartment buildings from the 60's & 70's -- almost all of which have a walled / fenced area to either side of the entry, blocking off the sunken "plaza" that fronts the sidewalk and creating a dead zone along the property line (except, as seen, the lovely display of garbage receptacles).

  12. #42

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    That building is just the tip of the iceberg. Astoria probably has the most attrocious new buildings in the city.

  13. #43

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    For sure. Its my Big Greek Wedding meets architecture. Nothing but shiny silver covered columns, plastic friezes and pediments, turrets, you name it. Plastic Parthenons for the wealthiest Greeks.

  14. #44

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    Dozens (probably 100's) of buildings like this that seem to go out of their way to appear as ridiculous as possible.

    Tasteless developers and architects.
    How much more expensive could putting up something like this be?

  15. #45
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    ^ Agreed. The building in that first photo is scary, and I don't mean because it has faux battlements .



    Old Astoria House Meets New Astoria ... Something



    Haven't we seen this Astoria house of horrors before? We couldn't find it in the archives, but there can only be so many houses so photogenically trapped by storefronts and encroaching development in one neighborhood.

    Even if we've chatted about this little guy there's still the matter of the big new dude next door. It's 31-19 Newtown Avenue, from New York City's most popular unknown architect Gerald Caliendo. The developer is prolific Queens builder Pistilli Realty, known for stirring up strong emotions and the occasional botchjob. A building permit circa '06 said this would be a 10-story health care facility, but it certainly has that faux-loft look, and numerous complaints and violations during construction have referred to the building as residential. So what's the 411, Astoria tipsters? We're sure the neighbors are curious.

    Photo: New and Old On Newtown Avenue [Curbed Photo Pool]

    http://curbed.com/archives/2010/02/0..._something.php

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