Astoria possesses an engaging backstory, and has played a significant role in the history of filmmaking and entertainment, both in New York and for the industry in general.
Astoria began as Hallet’s Cove—named after its first landowner, William Hallet, who settled there in 1659—and was founded in 1839 by fur merchant Steven Halsey. The area was a noted resort area for Manhattan’s wealthy elite, who in the early 19th century began building large residences around 12th and 14th streets (an area that later became Astoria Village and is now known as Old Astoria). It was renamed after John Jacob Astor, then the wealthiest man in America with a net worth of over $40 million, in order to persuade him to invest just $2,000 in the neighborhood. He ultimately invested a paltry $500, but the name stuck nonetheless, as an angry battle over naming the village was finally won by Astor’s supporters and friends. From his summer home in Hell Gate on what is now East 87th Street near York Avenue, Astor could see clearly across the East River the Long Island village named in his honor. He lived out his life without ever setting foot there.
The Astoria of today is a performing arts mecca and a vibrant cultural enclave that boasts the presence of Kaufman Astoria Studios, Museum of the Moving Image and the Queens Council on the Arts. Heavily dotted with a diverse mix of shops and restaurants, Astoria is an exciting and creative community that invites residents and visitors alike to participate in the rich, ongoing history of the City of New York.