Behind Robert De Niro’s $425M real estate play to bring Hollywood to New York

The actor, his son Douglas Elliman broker Rafael De Niro and Jane Rosenthal went into contract for a site located at 87 19th Avenue last month

Jul.July 10, 2019 10:34 AM
Robert De Niro and an aerial view of 87 19th Avenue in Queens (Credit: Getty Images and Google Maps)

Robert De Niro and an aerial view of 87 19th Avenue in Queens (Credit: Getty Images and Google Maps)

Robert de Niro’s second attempt to bring a major film studio to New York is going smoothly, so far.

His new project, Wildflower Studios at 87 19th Avenue in Queens, comes at a time when film companies are flocking to the city. Last year, 332 films were made in the city, more than double the figure in 1980, according to the New York Times.

Adam Gordon, the president of Wildflower, told the Times that he and De Niro came up with the concept because of the state of studios across the country.

The production of movies and television shows has been on the up in New York because of the credits offered by the state — they can save up to 30 percent on production costs. (Wildflower has not applied for any credits as of now.)

Companies such as Steiner Studios have grown their footprints in the city. Silvercup Studios opened two new studios in the Bronx, and Netflix in April said it would be opening a corporate office in Manhattan and production space in Brooklyn.

“We toured studios in New York, on the West Coast and in the South to understand the landscape of current filming spaces,” Gordon said. “We saw the need for a true destination film campus.”

But De Niro seems to have always wanted to bring film to New York. Two decades ago, the Hollywood star partnered with now-disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein on such a deal, the Times reported. In that project, the pair had announced a $150 million deal to turn a 15-acre site at the Brooklyn Navy Yard into a dozen sound stages.

After receiving what the pair believed was the greenlight from then-Mayor Rudy Guiliani in 1999, the city reneged on its approvals, and the project failed.

This time around, De Niro has partnered with his son, Raphael De Niro, a broker at Douglas Elliman and film producer Jane Rosenthal, to launch Wildflower Studios. About a dozen studios are planned for the site to meet the demands of booming production houses and streaming services, including Amazon, HBO and Netflix.

The trio is purchasing the property from piano manufacturer Steinway for $73 million. They plan to raise $425 million for the project — $150 million in equity and $275 million in debt. Dustin Stolly and Jordan Roeschlaub at Newmark Knight Frank handled the initial capital raise, Gordon said. The deal is expected to close by the end of the year. [NYT] — David Jeans 

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