Village officials have approved the site plan of a 50-foot-tall movie studio to be built on a vacant commercial complex in Port Washington North, clearing the way for what the developer called the sister studio to Bethpage’s Grumman studio.
The board’s approval last week marked the end of a two-year-long process that included six public hearings and multiple plan revisions, including lowering the height of the structure from 65 feet to 50 feet after some residents voiced concerns.
"I think it’s a nice fit," Village Mayor Bob Weitzner said in a follow-up interview. "I’m looking forward to the future. At Port North, welcome to Hollywood."
Parviz Farahzad, an East Setauket-based developer who owns Bethpage’s Grumman Studios, bought the 13-acre complex on Channel Drive for $7.3 million in 2014 from Publishers Clearing House. His proposed conversion of the site to a film studio was first presented to the board in October 2018.
The mayor said alternate ideas that had been considered included a warehouse, a nonprofit medical school, a 6,000-seat house of worship, an assisted living nursing home, a 24/7 fulfillment center and a sports center.
"Out of all we saw, this one made sense," Weitzner said.
Last September, the village board approved zoning changes to add "studio" as one of the permitted uses in the village’s Economic Development B District, which paved the way for the site plan approval.
Officials, the developer and the project’s supporters have long touted the studio as a boon that would bring jobs, create revenue for businesses and boost the local economy. With the public’s emergence from the pandemic lockdown, they noted added urgency to its completion.
"It not only will bring jobs into the town and benefit the economy but will also bring a new and improved identity to Port Washington North," said Sam Cacioppo, a resident who noted the pandemic’s impact and that locations in Port Washington had appeared in scenes of "Meet the Parents" and "The Wolf of Wall Street."
Cacioppo responded to critics who called the planned studio "ugly" — one saying the structure would look like a Costco store — by stressing the parcel’s current state.
"What’s ugly to me is having an abandoned building … sitting there with no purpose and just taking up space," he said. "This film studio replaces a shuttered industrial plant and can and will boost the town economy and also benefit the residents."
Residents at the hearing who were critical of the project pointed to the tax breaks the developer received last year, something village officials said was not under their purview.
The Nassau County Industrial Development Agency last year approved a 15-year reduction on property taxes for the new site; a sales tax exemption of up to $776,250 on construction materials; and a mortgage recording tax savings of $90,000.
Farahzad and his architect, Alex Badalamenti of bld architecture, a Patchogue-based firm, estimated a construction period of 14 months. Factoring time to obtain demolition and other permits from the village’s building department, they anticipated seeing the studio completed by the fall of 2022.
- The studio is expected to be completed in fall 2022, though developer Parviz Farahzad said the timeframe could be pushed back to late 2022 due to material shortages.
- The center of the tiered structure will be 50-feet tall, with its heights dropped to 35 feet and then 25 feet.
- Farahzad said the studio will be named “Grumman Studios at Port Washington North.”