Kaufman Astoria Studios is one of the showiest sites in lower Astoria, with its colorful lights ablaze at night, its British phone booths at its pillars, its orange-streaked iron gates and its fancy restaurant, George’s, serving as an anchor of the Kaufman Arts District. Turns out, much of the decor on the building was never approved by the city, which granted the near-century-old site landmark status in 1978.
The film and TV studio plans to ask the Landmarks Preservation Commission for permission to make a temporary outdoor portion of George’s permanent but will also address various other decor that’s been up in spite of the landmark status for, apparently, years. I don’t know if any of the added fixtures go against the letter of the landmarks preservation law, which you could read here. A representative for the studio went before a full Community Board 1 Thursday night asking for a letter of support, stirring up grievances about the iconic studio site.
“They’re like an outside entity in our neighborhood,” said Board Member Stella Nicolaou. “They just went ahead and did things,” she said, recalling also, how the studio several years ago closed a street off permanently for private use. “It’s like a dictatorship in our community.”
No one seemed to understand the deal with the the phone booths or the orange-streaked iron gate, which was likened to prison bars. “It looks like you’re trying to steal from England, you’re trying to steal from prisons…” Board Member Edwin Cadiz said.
There seemed to be shared annoyance about trucks on the sidewalk. “You put your tractor trailers all over the sidewalk,” said Board Member Dominic Stiller, striking a chord with others.
One local resident stood up to suggest that Kaufman fix the sidewalk and add trees. “Right now the sidewalk is completely destroyed,” she said. “This side of the avenue is completely baron.”
The board voted to send a letter, granted the grievances will be made clear in it and that some members didn’t even want to send the letter.
The studio, built in 1920, later home to Paramount Pictures, was a major film studio during the early years of cinema. It’s also known for TV shows such as Sesame Street and Orange is the New Black.