Feb. 22, 2018 By Tara Law
George Kaufman, a real estate developer and civic leader who revitalized Astoria Studios, died Tuesday at the age of 89.
Kaufman, president of the family-owned real estate firm Kaufman Realty Corporation, took over the dilapidated Astoria Studios in 1982 and built it into one of the largest studios in New York City.
The property, located at 34-12 36th Street, was Paramount Pictures’ primary studio in the 1920s and 1930s, and for 30 years had been used by the U.S. Army. The property sat vacant for a decade until Kaufman acquired it.
Many prominent movies and television shows, including “Sesame Street” and “Orange is the New Black,” are being shot at Kaufman Astoria Studios today.
Kaufman’s ownership of the studio is credited as revitalizing the southern section of Astoria. Many new businesses and cultural centers have opened in the vicinity in recent years.
The surrounding streets were named the Kaufman Arts District in 2014, an area that includes the Museum of the Moving Image, the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts and the United Artist Kaufman Astoria movie theater.
Hal Rosenbluth, the president and CEO of Kaufman Astoria Studios, praised Kaufman’s dedication to the neighborhood.
“He understood deep in his bones the importance of investing in New York’s communities because they are the very foundation of the City’s greatness,” Rosenbluth said. “He was a visionary who saw the promise of film and television production work in New York long before it became an integral part of the City’s economy.”
Kaufman was viewed as an astute business man, with his real estate company acquiring or building dozens or commercial and residential properties throughout New York.
He is also remembered as a philanthropist. He served on the board of the Whitney Museum, the Fashion Institute of Technology, Exploring the Arts and the Museum of the Moving Image. He was also the Founding Chairman of the Fashion Center BID.
Before starting his career in real estate, Kaufman served in the Korean War.
He is survived by his wife, Mariana, and daughter Cynthia.