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Neighbors worry about height of proposed movie studio

A movie studio is proposed at the old

A movie studio is proposed at the old Publishers Clearing House complex in Port Washington North. Credit: bld architecture

Residents near a proposed 65-foot tall movie studio in Port Washington North say the structure is too tall for the neighborhood and want village officials to mitigate the height impact.

The village board, which held a public hearing last Wednesday on the project, is considering zoning changes to add "studio" as one of the permitted uses in the Economic Development B District, one of the first steps before the studio could be built. 

Alex Badalamenti, president of Patchogue-based bld architecture, said the building would be a tiered structure with its center reaching 65 feet, and the company would use landscaping as a barrier, though not every resident is convinced that is enough.

“What we are talking about today is 65 feet high. No matter how much shrubs you have, there’s still a building there,” said Kathleen Walsh, a resident of Mill Pond Acres, a condo community on Pond View Drive that borders the proposed site. “Why does that one have to be 65 feet? Can we make that smaller and still have a productive environment?”

Badalamenti said production crews need the space to accommodate film shoots, and the height would be a component in making the studio attractive to its customers.

“The clear height is what’s important to the studios,” he said. “The greater the height allows, the greater and wider variety of production companies that are interested in the studio.”

Parviz Farahzad, an East Setauket-based developer, bought the 13-acre commercial complex on Channel Drive from Publishers Clearing House in 2014. Height is capped at 25 feet in the economic development zone where the property stands.

Farahzad, who developed Bethpage’s Grumman Studios, said he wants to demolish the ceiling, take out the columns and build the new studio within the footprint of the current one-story building. The space would be divided into six separate units and leased to production companies to make films, TV series and commercials.

Village Trustee Michael Malatino asked the company for a topography map and measurements of how tall the trees would be. Badalamenti said a full design is yet to be completed.

“It is a 65-foot-tall structure, not very attractive,” Malatino said. “Unless we could show our residents that the [premises] of the property would be fairly screened and I can look at nothing more than evergreen trees, I would be a little more uncomfortable with this.”

Mayor Bob Weitzner said the board, which controls the approval process, will address the height issue. He also noted the economic benefits a movie studio would bring to the village.

“Workers will be coming in. They will be shopping, they will be eating, in our stores and creating some economic vitality and stimulation into the community that we need,” he said. “We expect to see this to be a positive.”

Residents who agreed with the mayor on the economic benefits said they are still worried about the structure’s impact, including noise levels and traffic, in their neighborhood.

“You say what it will do for Port North, it is a great buzz. But for the people around it, it lowers their property values,” Walsh said. “It helps a lot of people in Port North, but not the people that pay a lot of money to live in a two-bedroom apartment.”

The village board voted to continue the hearing on Jan. 22.

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