After nearly 60 years building sets for the film and TV industry, LeNoble Lumber decided to shutter its Hell’s Kitchen facility and set up shop in Long Island City. Like many of the businesses currently flocking to the area, the firm wanted to be closer to the two production studios that have been fixtures in western Queens for decades. Now, on top of a booming production enterprise, those same studios are helping usher in a new wave of commercial and residential development.
“Studio pioneers, like Silvercup and Kaufman Astoria, clearly provided the impetus to make this area the hub of New York productions,” said Matt Dienstag, co-owner of LeNoble. “It’s the New York production version of Field of Dreams: They built it and we came.”
That New York story bears close resemblance to a tale that played out 20 years ago in California, when Sony Pictures served as the linchpin in the renewal of Culver City by moving its Columbia Pictures studios to the well-located but down-on-its-heels Los Angeles suburb. Today, spurred by a boom in film and TV production, Kaufman Astoria and Silvercup studios have upped their investments in once-forlorn areas of western Queens that have helped attract small businesses, restaurants and arts groups making the neighborhoods more attractive residential destinations. Their influence, combined with the city’s rezoning efforts, are causing the communities to be transformed by an influx of young couples and families.
“This neighborhood used to be full of vandalized buildings,” said Hal Rosenbluth, president of Kaufman Astoria. “Our goal wasn’t just to build a movie studio. It was to revitalize a neighborhood using the studio as a base.”