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Astoria film lot needs action

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (c.) visits Kaufman Astoria Studios to urge the National Park Service to forgo another review of the project. Kaufman studios President Hal Rosenbaum (l.) and owner George Kaufman join him. Photo by Ellis Kaplan
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U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) visited Kaufman Astoria Studios Friday to demand the federal government kill a recommended review for an outdoor studio lot at the site so that the project could move ahead quickly.

The senator said the studio, the first planned for New York City, had already been reviewed by the National Park Service and that another review would be redundant and cause the city to lose out on potential movie productions.

“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,” Schumer said in a statement.

Kaufman Astoria Studios, at 34-12 36th St., hopes to expand its operations by building an outdoor studio lot by closing off 36th Street between 34th and 35th avenues, Schumer’s office said. The studio, which has a history going back to the 1920s, has been used to film TV shows such as “Sesame Street,” “Onion News Network” and “Nurse Jackie,” as well as movies like “Eat, Pray, Love,” “The Bourne Ultimatum” and “Men in Black 3.”

The $2 million expansion project, which includes an iconic entry gate on 36th Street on the 35th Avenue side, has gotten numerous approvals. A Uniform Land Use Review Procedure required approvals from the city Landmarks Preservation Commission, state Historic Preservation Office and the National Park Service, which deeded the land to the city in the 1970s exclusively for film use.

But despite its original approval of the project, the National Park Service said it will need to re-review the project because the studio made some design changes to the entrance at the request of the city Public Design Commission.

“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,” Schumer said.

The senator said park service’s review could hold up the project by three or four months. This could cause Kaufman Astoria to miss out on getting major productions by summer 2013.

“The back lot will add to the growth of the Kaufman Astoria Studios campus, the industry in New York and the economic development of the neighborhood,” Kaufman Astoria Studios President Hal Rosenbluth said in a statement.

Schumer wrote a letter to National Parks Director Jonathan Jarvis urging the project’s approval.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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