Tech Expands its NYC Foothold, Investors Build Film Studio

Although Amazon bypassed New York City for its second headquarters four months ago, the Big Apple has attracted numerous other high-tech companies that are renting office space and creating jobs. Google inked a deal to lease 1.3 million square feet in lower Manhattan, with plans to add 7,000 jobs over 10 years. Facebook is also in talks to lease one million square feet of office space on the far West Side. Now, actor Robert De Niro and his son are part of an investment team building a film and TV production studio in Queens.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Uber and Amazon are also “looking for large office space at the Farley Building.” “New York has lured the talent, and now the employers need to set up shop to lure that talent,” said Oxford Properties Group executive Kevin Egan. “These tenants want to be here and need to be here.”

In addition to a large labor pool, New York offers “extensive transportation infrastructure and the cultural and entertainment activities.” Although Amazon rejected NYC’s financial package, “interest among social media, e-commerce and ride-hailing companies has been intensifying,” with many willing to pay the higher rates for Manhattan real estate rather than locating in Queens where Amazon would have established itself.

According to New School economist James Parrott, “the top tech-job categories, which include software publishers, Internet publishing and web search portals, averaged 9.6 percent growth annually between 2009 and 2018 in New York City … almost four times as fast as the average annual private-sector job growth.”

“Social media companies have to sell ads to have revenue streams, and New York City is the advertising capital,” said Parrott. “If you want smart people in advertising, you have to come to New York City for that.”

The New York Times reports that, after Netflix announced it would create a new corporate office in Manhattan and a production hub, a group of investors, including De Niro, is “buying a five-acre parcel in Astoria, Queens, with plans to build a sprawling production and film studio,” to be dubbed Wildflower Studios.

Last year, said officials, 332 movies were filmed in New York, compared to 121 in 1980. Revenue from film/TV has been $2 billion thus far this year, up from $2.1 billion spent in 2013. The Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment said that 67 TV shows were shot in NYC this last year, compared to 29 during the 2013-2014 season.

One appeal for productions to shoot in New York is its “program of production credits, about $420 million annually, which can offer savings of 30 percent or more on some production costs.” Since the program debuted in 2004, productions have spent “more than $33 billion and filled roughly 1.8 million jobs” in New York. More than 50 TV shows have applied for credits so far this year, including two for Apple’s soon-to-debut video service.

Wildflower Studios has not yet “sought a tax credit.” Purchase of the land and building the 600,000-square foot studio is expected to cost about $400 million.