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Kaufman starts $22M expansion

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city could give California’s movie and television business a run for its money following the Monday groundbreaking of Kaufman Astoria Studios’ $22 million expansion project that will include a new soundstage and support space.

The mayor joined studio founder George Kaufman and “Sesame Street’s” Elmo to kick off the massive project, which will eventually close off a portion of 36th Street in Astoria for the creation of a studio lot.

“This will help New York compete with Hollywood more than ever before,” Bloomberg said. “This will allow Kaufman to open its doors to even more productions and it will be transformed into a campus similar to the big studio lots in Hollywood. [The studio] has been at the heart of this neighborhood’s revival, spurring an influx of new restaurants and businesses.”

Kaufman President Hal Rosenbluth said the expansion would include an 18,000−s­quare−foot soundstage and 22,000 square feet of support space for dressing, make−up and grip rooms, hair and wardrobe.

The studio has been the home for “Sesame Street,” which shoots at the studio, for several decades, while several films have also recently wrapped on its lots, including an untitled film by Woody Allen and a remake of the 1974 film “The Taking of Pelham 1,2,3.”

Pat Kaufman, executive director of the mayor’s Film, Theatre and Broadcasting Office, said state tax incentives that give a 30 percent tax credit to films and television shows that complete a majority of their shooting in the city will bring more productions to the studio.

“It will help us continue to see that film and television are a great economic engine to the state,” said Kaufman, who is not related to the studio’s owner. “This is a situation where if you build it, they will come.”

She said the city has received 69 applications for productions since the state Legislature extended the tax credit from 10 percent to 30 percent in the spring. She said those productions would spend more than $1 billion in the city.

The expansion project was originally proposed nine years ago, but was put on hold following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Rosenbluth said.

Western Queens’ other major movie studio — Long Island City’s Silvercup Studios — is also planning to expand its facilities in a $1 billion project that would include eight new soundstages, 1,000 apartment units and a waterfront pavilion.

Bloomberg said the studios’ expansions would allow for more films and television shows to be shot in the city, which would promote tourism.

“Every single TV show, movie or commercial shot here is an ad for New York,” he said. “It will help keep us afloat during these difficult economic times.”

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e−mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 156.

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