Path cleared for Port North film studio as village board approves code changes

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Port North Village Attorney Stuart Besen, right, and a monitor of Zoom participants in the village's Sept. 23 meeting. (Photo by Rose Weldon)

After months of hearings, Port Washington North has cleared the way for the construction of a movie studio at 101 Channel Drive in the village.

An article of the village’s code lists offices, laboratories, food establishments, storage facilities, health clubs, and similar businesses as permitted uses. The village’s board unanimously approved adding a “movie and film studio” to the list at their meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 23.

The move clears a path for 101 Channel LLC to renovate a 100,000 square-foot former Publishers Clearing House building into a state-of-the-art film studio.

Owned by developer Parviz Farahzad, who spearheaded the Grumman Studios project in Bethpage, the plans, which have not yet been filed with the village, call for turning the vacant property into six film production studios.

Mayor Robert Weitzner said at the outset of the meeting that the board felt prepared to vote following months of information.

“We have examined the record, we’ve examined the public comments, the environmental reports, and we have reviewed everything to know with a fine-toothed comb,” Weitzner said. “We’ve had numerous discussions about this. The public certainly has had numerous discussions about this. And we feel that we’re in a position to vote and decide whether or not these changes are going to happen in this particular zone.”

Village Attorney Stuart Besen then spelled out the language of the motion, which capped the building’s height at 50 feet.

Just prior to casting his vote, Weitzner thanked his residents.

“I want to thank, again, our residents,” Weitzner said. “Where this started and where we ended up was monumental. Four months, five months of input from our community have molded this into a project that I think is sustainable. And again, I think the economic benefit and the benefits for employment are phenomenal, given this environment, and the fact that this owner had the desire to continue with this in spite of the difficulties surrounding the pandemic. And I, you know, I believe that this will be an absolute benefit for this community.”

The past few months had seen residents from the neighboring Mill Pond Acres condominiums take issue with the planned studio, but resident Enid Hawthorne said over Zoom during public comment that the residents were happy with the village’s response.

“I think it’s important to know that those of us at Mill Pond Acres are most grateful to you for considering this proposal seriously, for listening to us and for acting accordingly,” Hawthorne said. “And considering how people were when the item was first brought up, now many people are happy with the studio, happy that we’ve found some way to use that economic area near us and also to help us. So thank you so much from the residents.”

Farazhad, also on Zoom, chimed in to thank the trustees.

“I would like to thank the trustees for working with us, and the village as well,” Farazhad said.

“All right, well, it’s still a lot of hard work, Parvas, with site plans and addressing all the concerns of the residents, we’re going to be there with you and we’re excited about it,” Weitzner said.

The planned project has also received support from the Nassau IDA and the state of New York’s Regional Economic Development Council, which awarded a $1.25 million grant to 101 Channel Drive LLC last year.

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