George Kaufman, the chairman of New York City’s Kaufman Astoria Studios – home to numerous East Coast productions past and present including Orange is the New Black, The Path, The Affair, Nurse Jackie, Blue Blood and HBO’s Angels in America, to name a very few – died February 20 at 89.
His death was announced by Kaufman Astoria Studios.
“George was so much more than a real estate developer,” said Hal Rosenbluth, the president and CEO of Kaufman Astoria Studios, and a long-time friend. “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.”
The studio lot in Astoria, Queens dates back to Adolph Zukor era of the 1920s, and was once home to the Famous Players-Lasky and the Marx Brothers. By the 1970s it had largely fallen into disuse and been added to the National Register of Historic Places, and in 1982 was taken over by real estate developer Kaufman and renamed Kaufman Astoria Studios.
According to the Studios’ website, the title to the studio was transferred from the city to Kaufman, in partnership with Alan King and Johnny Carson, among others.
With renovation and expansion, Kaufman Astoria Studios became a full-service, comprehensive studio. KAS opened a backlot and outdoor stage facility in 2013, and now includes more than 500,000 square feet of soundstages, according to the studio. The surrounding area was revitalized in the studio’s wake, becoming the Kaufman Arts District, home to the Museum of the Moving Image.
Among the films shot at KAS over the years: Hair, The Wiz, Goodfellas, Carlito’s Way, The Money Pit, 2009’s The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, and 2011’s Arthur remake.
Television shows filmed there include Sesame Street, Onion News Network, Johnny and the Sprites, Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego, Judge Judy, The Cosby Show, Cosby, Swans Crossing, Law & Order, Spin City, and Mariah Carey’s MTV Unplugged.
“George Kaufman brought his vision, his real estate expertise, and his likable personality to bear to bring an historic Studio back to life and used that to revitalize a fledgling film and television production industry,” the studio said in a statement. “An industry today that has become one of the largest in the state and is responsible for more than 100,000 good paying jobs. George understood that film and television production, and the arts overall, are part of the City’s fabric, creating much needed jobs but also contributing to a sense of self that has influenced people throughout the country and across the globe.”
Kaufman was for years an active member of the Real Estate Board of New York. In addition, he 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 was also the Founding Chairman of the Fashion Center BID.
Kaufman, a veteran of the Korean War, earned his undergraduate degree from Ohio State University and his master’s degree from New York University. He resided in New York City with his wife Mariana. In addition to his wife, he is survived by his daughter Cynthia.
Funeral services will take place on Monday, February 26 at 11:30 a.m. at Temple Emanu-El in Manhattan. In lieu of flowers, donations can be given to the Kaufman Arts District