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Long-planned NYC film and TV studio along the Hudson gains backers, pushes forward

A long-planned film and TV studio campus will break ground later this year at Pier 94 in Hell’s Kitchen, with two new major backers added to the project, the New York City Economic Development Corp. announced Tuesday.

Investment firm Blackstone and real estate investment trust Hudson Pacific Properties have joined the development team already consisting of the public-private Economic Development Corp. and Vornado Realty Trust.

“Sunset Pier 94 Studios” is the first public-private partnership to purpose-build a studio in Manhattan. It is scheduled to break ground in the third quarter of the year and be completed by the end of 2025.

Vornado, Blackstone and Hudson will invest approximately $350 million in the venture, which is estimated to generate $6.4 billion for the local economy over the next 30 years and create more than 1,300 construction jobs and 400 permanent jobs, the Economic Development Corp. said.

The city green-lit the campus this year despite local objections. The development has been criticized because it will be exempt from property taxes. While Mayor Adams has touted Pier 94 as a win for economic development, some have viewed it as a sweetheart deal with overly generous subsidies for developers.

“This project will bring critical, long-awaited investment to this public asset, turn an underutilized space into an economic driver, and improve public space and quality of life for New Yorkers,” Adams said in a statement.

But in a May letter, Manhattan Community Board 4 said the Economic Development Corp. and Vornado had “failed” the community for the past 14 years, and that the board was “deeply concerned by the lease terms and the process by which it was developed.”

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The city owns Pier 94 and has committed $54 million for upfront repairs to the supporting structure, which it will maintain for the first 37 years of the lease; after that, maintenance will be the responsibility of Vornado and its partners.

Vornado gained control of Pier 94 and nearby Pier 92 in 2008 and was slated to redevelop them as a conference space.

Sunset Pier 94 Studios will feature six soundstages in its 266,000-square-foot space, as well as offices and production control rooms. There will also be new public facilities including rest rooms for Hudson River Park, bikeway safety improvements, 25,000 square feet of waterfront open space and a media workforce training program.

New York has long been a hub for the entertainment industry. In 2019 alone, the film and television industry was directly responsible for 100,200 jobs and $64.1 billion in economic output, according to a 2021 impact study by the mayor’s office.

The Sunset Pier 94 Studios project comes at a time of uncertainty for the film and television industry amid ongoing labor strikes, which have hit the local economy.

New York is already home to a number of production studios, mostly outside Manhattan.

They include Silvercup Studios, located in a former flour silo in Long Island City, Queens, with an offshoot in the South Bronx, and Steiner Studios in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the biggest studio in the city and largest film studio located outside Hollywood. Wildflower Studios in Astoria, Queens, partly financed by Robert De Niro, is expected to be completed by the end of 2023.

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