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New York Senator Says Red Tape Holding Up Planned Outdoor Production Studio

Charles Schumer - P 2012
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Ninety-year-old Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens, New York is awaiting approval on expansion from National Park Service.

New York Senator Charles Schumer says that red tape from the National Park Service is interfering with efforts to build an outdoor movie studio that will attract film and TV studios to the Big Apple. Speaking at Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens, New York today, Senator Schumer is urging action on development of an expansion on the lot and says that delay could hurt New York as a production center.

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Kaufman Astoria Studios was originaly built in 1920 and used by Paramount Pictures before the studio moved operations to Los Angeles. Over the years, it's been used to film such pictures and shows as Carlito's Way, Sesame Street, Angels in America, and most recently, Men in Black III.

For a period, the U.S. Army held control over the studio to shoot recruitment films, but left the site in 1975.

The studio slipped into some disrepair, but in 2007, studio operators announced an expansion of a new 18,000-square-foot stage. In 2010, operators introduced a proposal for a new outdoor space, and despite some local objections, it was approved by a community board.

Senator Schumer now says the biggest obstacle is the National Park Service, which originally deeded the land to New York City for the purposes of building a studio. He says the agency previously signed off on a deal, but not wants to play a role in approving the design and aesthetics of the project. He says a second review by the National Parks Service could push the $2 million project three to four months behind schedule and threaten the plan to host major productions by the summer of 2013.

“It’s time to say ‘action’ on this project, so that New York City can become the new star of the film and television industry,” said Schumer. “By building the City’s first ever outdoor studio lot, we can attract film and TV clients that would otherwise have to choose Los Angeles."

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The politician added, "This outdoor lot could become an iconic New York City destination like the great studios of Hollywood, but the National Park Service needs to stop the needless bureaucratic delays and allow this project to move forward.”

Kaufman Astoria is one of the big studio facilities in NYC along with Silvercup Studios and Steiner Studios, which have also expanded. In New York City last year, 188 films and a record 23 primetime TV shows were shot in the city.