Back-Lot Dreams

New York's Mega-Studio: If We Build It, Will They Come?

John Penotti, the head of Tribeca-based Greenestreet Films, agrees. "While we always want to increase the amount of production in New York," he says, "there may be a finite amount that the city can handle." Even now, without 50-foot cranes and celebrity trailers blocking off avenues, Commissioner Oliver concedes, "Traffic is a nightmare and parking is an issue." But she says new efforts to organize the city's hosting of film and TV productions—from computerizing the permit process to weekly meetings with government agencies like the MTA and DOT to coordinate logistical concerns—will prevent additional shoots from infringing on New Yorkers' quality of life.

Though community boards have no complaints about the Steiners, the Satmar Hasidic population in nearby Williamsburg raised a stir in 2001 for what they alleged were the corrupting influences of Hollywood in their neighborhood. "It's like bringing Times Square into the middle of Amish country," Rabbi Abraham Zimmerman told the AP. But Jay Fine claims Steiner Studios will remain sensitive to the needs of the Satmars, as well as offer training programs and internships for city residents. (Studio City New York's West End plan includes construction of a new gym for the adjacent school, I.S. 51.) Fine also touts the over 1000 skilled jobs that the studio could create next year, if they are operating at full capacity.

According to producer Ted Hope, these jobs are vital to the future of New York's independent film community. "We're like that little bird on the hippo's back; the studios sustain us," he says. "They only way New York is going to be able to cultivate homegrown directorial talent is if the bigger movies are happening. Right now, crews are worrying about how to pay the bills because they've been out of work so long." Hope continues, "When New York is active as a production center, you might start to believe in trickle-down economics."

The site of the future Steiner Studios, at Flushing and Washington Avenues
photo: Ofer Wolberger
The site of the future Steiner Studios, at Flushing and Washington Avenues

Kaufman-Astoria's Rosenbluth is confident that New York's entertainment business will soon see better days, but he still remains skeptical about the new studios. "The reasons that productions come to New York will probably remain the same: The talent is here or the scripts are here," he says. "But whether there will be enough new production to support these new facilities remains to be seen."

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