Bloomberg touts film, TV impact on economy

N.Y. mayor on hand to unveil Kaufman-Astoria's Stage K

NEW YORK -- Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Monday touted the importance of the film and TV sectors as well as tax incentives to New York's economy, particularly amid an economic downturn.

"The television and film industry is essential to diversifying New York's economy," Bloomberg said during the groundbreaking ceremony for Kaufman-Astoria Studios' Stage K, adding that the combined 35% tax credit for production costs offered by New York City and New York state is key to keeping productions here.

Stage K, a $20 million, 40,000-square-foot soundstage addition, is "an eagerly anticipated expansion" that will further strengthen the city's appeal, Bloomberg said.

"New York can compete with Hollywood like never before," he said.

Bloomberg also argued that Kaufman-Astoria is an example of how entertainment production facilities can energize whole neighborhoods.

"It is the heart of neighborhood revival (in Astoria), spurring new restaurants, theaters and one of the largest movie theaters in the country," he said.

Outside of immediate business demand brought on by the influx of industry professionals looking to work in the city, Bloomberg repeatedly stressed that every shot of the New York skyline seen on TV or in a film is a boon to tourism.

Kaufman-Astoria Studios has been home to productions ranging from Shirley Temple's "Animal Crackers" (1930) to HBO's "Angels in America" (2002), new ABC show "Life on Mars" and perennial favorite "Sesame Street."

"Sesame Street" co-executive producer Kevin Clash, also the voice of Elmo, was on hand to speak -- in character -- for the groundbreaking. While the character of Elmo is only 3 1/2 years old on the program, the smiling red puppet made gentle economic jokes as he happily proclaimed that for Kaufman-Astoria Studios, "We spare no expense!" and handed Kaufman-Astoria president Hal Rosenbluth and founder George Kaufman a bright blue wooden "K" for the new soundstage.

Out of character, however, Clash said that for "Sesame Street," the economic values of filming in New York are secondary to the metaphoric value of the city.

" 'Sesame Street' has always filmed in New York because Sesame Street is intentionally an idealized New York City," he told The Hollywood Reporter. "There is a lot of diversity in both places. It's why I love to live here and to film here. Sesame Street is the best New York, and the best New York City is the best America."