Astoria’s New Art District Uplifting the Queens Neighborhood?

(Photo: Mr Shah/ Wikipedia Commons)
(Photo: Mr Shah/ Wikipedia Commons)

INTRO: City council has given Queens its first arts district. Part of Astoria, it will be the city’s third. Lara McCaffrey reports on what it might mean.

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NARRATION: The centerpiece of the arts district is the Kaufman Astoria Studios. The Marx Brothers made movies there in the 1920s. Today, Sesame Street and Orange is the New Black are filmed there. The owners of the studios, lobbied for its designation. City council officially declared the area the Kaufman Arts District. The district doesn’t come with any tax breaks or financial help. Hoong Yee Krakauer (KRA-COW-ER) of the Queen’s Council on the Arts says it’s just a name.

KRAKAUER: This is just another way for people to tag it as the destination to go to, it’s another name it’s sort of a marketing branding thing. (11 seconds)

But that may not do anything for the arts. Jason Andrew runs a nonprofit gallery in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn. He also used to serve on the neighborhood’s community board. He doesn’t think the arts have much to do with the Astoria district’s designation.

ANDREW: And I can’t help but think that there is a lot of real estate involved in this and that’s kind of where you get this very formal presentation and stamp of an arts district. (16 seconds)

This stamp means more people may visit Astoria which could generate more interest in living there. That could lead to higher rents.This has happened before. Roselee Goldberg is an art history professor at New York University and has written about New York arty neighborhood SoHo in the 70s.

GOLDBERG: Thirty years on you’re looking at a SoHo that’s become this totally inhabited, very high commercial space. The artists were all, had to move out–were bought out and simply cannot exist near that area anymore. (17 seconds)

Goldberg that says if the city wants to help artists in Astoria, it should do more than provide a name.

GOLDBERG: We do have to keep in the front of one’s mind is this idea of how to support these young artists, young actors. How to sustain that over time. So it isn’t just a bait for new development but that it become deeply entrenched in that part of the that cultural fabric. (17 seconds)

The city has supported its other two official arts districts–the Cultural District of Downtown Brooklyn and the East 4th Cultural District of Manhattan. The city has funded institutions in the district in Downtown Brooklyn and gave the buildings in the East 4th District to non-profit cultural groups. Right now, there are no plans for financial help for the Kaufman Arts District.

Lara McCaffrey, Columbia Radio News.

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