July 24, 2013 By Bill Parry
The construction of an outdoor movie set began at the Kaufman Astoria Studios last week as Western Queens continues to take on more of a Hollywood flavor.
The expansion, which was part of a thought-out process since the 1980s, began last week when traffic on 36th Street (btw, 34th and 35th Avenues) was closed off and blue plywood walls were erected.
The street was de-mapped last year in a deal that will create the city’s only outdoor film set. Its creation follows an agreement struck between Kaufman Astoria Studios and the Economic Development Corporation, where the studio is able to lease the street until 2049.
The studio will pay the city $140,000 per year (a figure that will increase every five years) for the outdoor space.
Kaufman Astoria will construct a Hollywood style main gate, where icons like Charlie Chaplin, Rudolph Valentino and Mary Pickford started making movies before the industry moved west.
Businesses located in close proximity to the outdoor studio support the creation of the outdoor set—despite the inconvenience of the construction.
The Astor Room, a classic American restaurant that is located at the corner of 36th St. and 35th Ave., will be closest to the action. The plywood wall, which will only be up during the construction phase, currently obscures the entrance to the eatery.
“It’s annoying at this point,” said general manager Mark Atkocaitis, whose restaurant pays homage to the film industry. “We just have to be more creative with our marketing…to let people know that we’re here.”
Atkocaitis said Kaufman Astoria Studios is aware of their situation and plans to provide a red carpet—literally–to guide customers to the establishment.
Atkocaitis believes the difficulties brought on by construction will be worth it in the long term once the plywood wall comes down. “Hey, they’re bringing Hollywood back.”
Meanwhile, Jim Coughlin the manager of 5 Napkin Burger, which is located across 35th Avenue, said the studio will be good for business once it is complete. “We’re told it will create more jobs and increase tourism—and if it brings more foot traffic to the area that’s a great thing.”