"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."
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."
In early February the first Queens branch of the popular Australian café Toby's Estate Coffee opened on Jackson Avenue, a few blocks from Silvercup. And Eleni Goros opened a café called Sweet Scene near Kaufman Astoria in August.
"The studio being here is obviously a huge plus," she said. "There has been a much younger crowd moving into the neighborhood and young families as well."
Those families have been attracted to the area by a seismic change in the residential market that also has benefited the studios. Over the past decade rising real estate prices in Manhattan and Brooklyn have funneled renters, buyers and developers to Long Island City, part of which was rezoned in 2001 to allow for massive apartment towers that could be built more cheaply there than elsewhere.
And built they were. Since 2007 around 11,000 units have been constructed, and 24,000 more are on the way. Astoria's relative cheapness and proximity to Midtown also has made it attractive to residents priced out of other neighborhoods.
Because of all the activity, real estate prices are skyrocketing. The average price per square foot of residential space in the part of Astoria around Kaufman has jumped roughly 35% to $1,050 in the past two years, according to Eric Benaim, chief executive of Modern Spaces, a real estate brokerage and marketer specializing in Long Island City and Astoria. In the Court Square area near Silvercup, the average rent has increased to around $1,300 per square foot from about $1,000 two years ago.