George Kaufman, 89, NYC real estate developer (Kaufman-Astoria Studios in Queens)
(too old to reply)
That Derek
2018-02-22 21:48:11 UTC

George Kaufman, Chairman of New York's Kaufman Astoria Studios, Dies at 89

12:05 PM PST 2/22/2018
by Mike Barnes

The real-estate developer acquired the original home of Paramount Pictures in 1982 and triggered a revitalization of film and TV production in the city.

George Kaufman, the real-estate developer who helped rejuvenate film and television production in New York City as chairman of the venerable Kaufman Astoria Studios complex in Queens, died Tuesday, a publicist announced. He was 89.

Kaufman grew his three-generation, family owned-and-operated Kaufman Organization into one of the city's largest independent real estate operations. The company now owns or manages more than six million square feet of property in New York.

Built in 1920, Kaufman Astoria Studios was the original home of Paramount Pictures, and the Marx Brothers shot their first two features there. After the filmmaking community relocated to Hollywood, the U.S. Army began production there in the 1940s. It was declared "surplus property" in the 1970s and turned over to the federal government.

In 1982, Kaufman acquired Astoria Studios with a plan to "not only to build a world-class film and television production center that would continue the studio's legacy and bring more productions to New York, but to also revitalize this corner of Astoria," he told The Wall Street Journal in a 2014 interview.

Kaufman Astoria Studios opened a backlot — the only outdoor stage facility in New York City — in 2013 and now offers more than 500,000 square feet of soundstages, production office and service space. It has served as the home of Sesame Street since 1992 and in recent years has also hosted productions including Birdman, Nurse Jackie, Boardwalk Empire and Orange Is the New Black.

Meanwhile, the surrounding neighborhood, now known as the Kaufman Arts District — the first arts district in Queens — includes the Museum of the Moving Image.

"George was so much more than a real estate developer," Hal Rosenbluth, president and CEO of Kaufman Astoria Studios, said in a statement. "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. 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."

A veteran of the Korean War, Kaufman earned his undergraduate degree from Ohio State University and his masters from New York University. The family real estate business began in 1918, and he became president of the Kaufman Realty Corp. in the late 1950s.

Kaufman served on the boards of a number of philanthropic and civil organizations, including the Whitney Museum, the Fashion Institute of Technology, Exploring the Arts and the Museum of the Moving Image. He also was the founding chairman of the Fashion Center BID.

Survivors include his wife, Mariana, and daughter, Cynthia.

A funeral service will take place at 11:30 a.m. on Monday at Temple Emanu-El in Manhattan. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Kaufman Arts District.
MJ Emigh
2018-02-22 22:40:17 UTC
Post by That Derek
Built in 1920, Kaufman Astoria Studios was the original home of Paramount Pictures, and the Marx Brothers shot their first two features there.
Those guys really worked! They shot "Coconuts" in Astoria by day and did "Animal Crackers" on Broadway at night. Was this guy related to George S. Kaufman? I don't see any mention of it, but it seems like an interesting coincidence (George S. wrote "Coconuts" and co-wrote "Animal Crackers").
Terry del Fuego
2018-02-22 23:47:00 UTC
Post by MJ Emigh
They shot "Coconuts"
"The Cocoanuts".

(It's cold and windy outside. Pedantry makes me feel better about it.)
2018-02-27 20:18:42 UTC
Post by MJ Emigh
Was this guy related to George S. Kaufman? I don't see any mention of it, but it seems like an interesting coincidence (George S. wrote "Coconuts" and co-wrote "Animal Crackers").
Thanks to the following obit, we now know that the answer is no.

George S. Kaufman, Who Revived Astoria Studios, Dies at 89
FEB. 26, 2018

George S. Kaufman, a real estate magnate whose transformation of a derelict movie studio in Astoria, Queens, helped revive film and television production in New York, died on Feb. 20 at his home in Palm Beach, Fla. He was 89.

The cause was heart failure, said his wife, Mariana.

In 1982, Mr. Kaufman, the scion of a century-old New York real estate family, led a group of investors in rescuing the Queens complex, which had opened in 1920 as the cavernous home of what became Paramount Pictures.

He developed the site into 500,000 square feet of studios, production facilities, offices, service space and a backlot, drawing television and movie producers eager to film in New York.

“The Cosby Show,” “Sesame Street,” “Orange Is the New Black,” “Nurse Jackie” and the police procedural “Blue Bloods” have been among the TV shows to use the studios. Movies filmed in part there include “Goodfellas,” “Angels in America,” “The Wiz” and the 2009 remake of “The Taking of Pelham 123.”

The Kaufman real estate company was founded by his grandfather Samuel in 1918, when he bought a single building on the Lower East Side of Manhattan to house his garment business. Today, the company owns or manages some seven million square feet of property.

George Kaufman’s investment in the Astoria studio helped spark a commercial and residential boom in northwest Queens. He also helped the singer and Astoria native Tony Bennett and his wife, Susan Benedetto, a public-school teacher, establish the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, a public high school, in the neighborhood.

As a major stakeholder in Midtown Manhattan properties, Mr. Kaufman became the first president of a business improvement district in the Garment District, now known as the Garment District Alliance.

A self-taxing group, the alliance is a chamber of commerce that also sponsors an auxiliary police force and sanitation service. It immediately rebranded the neighborhood as the Fashion Center, to reflect its transformation from a manufacturing hub jammed with trucks being loaded with dresses on rolling racks to a locus of spiffy showrooms for products now mostly manufactured in the South or abroad.

At his death, Mr. Kaufman was the chairman of Kaufman Astoria Studios and the Kaufman Organization.

“I never understood why people retire,” he told The New York Times in 2011. “What do you do?”

George Stewart Kaufman was born on March 17, 1928, in Manhattan to Benjamin Kaufman, the chairman of Kaufman Management, and the former Stella Cohen, a fashion designer known as Brownie.

He graduated from Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School in Manhattan and Ohio State University and earned a Master of Science degree in economics from New York University.

He served in the military during the Korean War and became president of Kaufman Realty Corporation (now run by a cousin) in the late 1950s. He was also a vice president of Warner Brothers from 1968 to 1970.

Mr. Kaufman was on the boards of the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan, part of the State University of New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art; the Museum of the Moving Image, founded in Queens in 1988; the Citizens Union Foundation, a research, educational and advocacy organization; and Exploring the Arts, an educational partnership also founded by Mr. Bennett and Ms. Benedetto.

His first two marriages ended in divorce. In addition to his wife, the former Mariana Zoullas, whom he married in 2000, he is survived by a daughter, Cynthia Kaufman, from his first marriage, to Stephanie Engelman.

The Astoria sound stages that Mr. Kaufman restored were opened by Adolph Zukor, the president of Famous Players-Lasky Corporation, the predecessor to Paramount. Among the films made there were “The Cocoanuts,” the Marx Brothers’ first full-length feature, in 1929, and “Battle of Paris,” with Gertrude Lawrence, that same year. Rudolph Valentino, Gloria Swanson, Ethel Barrymore, W. C. Fields, Lillian Gish and Paul Robeson also worked there.

After Paramount decamped for Hollywood, the Army produced training films at the complex from the early 1940s until 1970.

Plans were afoot to build housing and expand a community college at the Astoria studios site before a complete restoration of it became the cause of two union officials, Sam Robert and Larry Barr, representing stagehands. They found allies in the singer and actress Kitty Carlisle Hart, who was the chairwoman of the New York State Council on the Arts, and Claire Shulman, who worked for the Queens borough president and would later hold that post herself for many years.

Mr. Kaufman soon assembled a group of private investors, including Johnny Carson, Alan King and Neil Simon, and the city, which had taken title to the property, granted the enterprise a 99-year lease and tax abatements.

Mr. Kaufman was not related to the playwright of the same name, but his family had other show business connections. He recalled that his uncle Harry had been a songwriter who would sometimes visit with Jimmy Durante and accompany him on the piano.

Of all his real estate holdings, Mr. Kaufman said, he got the greatest satisfaction from the sound stages he created in Astoria.

“He was a true New Yorker,” Leonard A. Lauder, the philanthropist and cosmetics tycoon, said on Monday at Mr. Kaufman’s funeral at Temple Emanu-El in Manhattan. For Mr. Kaufman, he said, the Queens complex “wasn’t a hobby, it wasn’t a business — it was a passion.”

Sarah Maslin Nir contributed reporting.

A version of this article appears in print on February 27, 2018, on Page B13 of the New York edition with the headline: George S. Kaufman, Who Revived Astoria Movie Studios, Is Dead at 89.
That Derek
2018-02-22 23:32:18 UTC
Post by MJ Emigh
Was this guy related to George S. Kaufman?
I was thinking the same thing considering that the latter-day George Kaufman had "S" for an middle initial.

But then I realized that Jewish families traditionally do not name children after living relatives, thus, I doubt GSK/playwright is the father of GSK/real estate mogul. I guess we'll have to wait for a more authoritative/more comprehensive obit from the NY Times.
2018-02-23 19:33:09 UTC
Post by That Derek
But then I realized that Jewish families traditionally do not name children after living relatives,
I never knew that.
Post by That Derek
thus, I doubt GSK/playwright is the father of GSK/real estate mogul.
Definitely not the father, anyway. GSK and his first wife, Beatrice, had a stillborn child and then adopted a daughter born in 1925, Anne Kaufman Booth (aka Anne Kaufman Schneider, but not to be confused with the much younger Broadway director Anne Kauffman - note the spelling).

Sadly, probably because of the tragic event, George and Beatrice became somewhat incompatible and agreed to have affairs.

More on Schneider (she's still alive, it seems):



"To me it was a normal childhood. I mean, there would be George Gershwin playing the piano. Once Charlie Chaplin came to a party. He had the smallest hands and feet of anyone I ever saw.

"I am a great living argument for environment over heredity. I couldn't be more like my mom and dad. And I'm not sure they didn't love me more because of the adoption. They always said 'we chose you.'"