Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Wednesday search challenge (July 16, 2014): What can you find out about this property?

In my opinion, one of the very best developments in all of the entire history of television is Sesame Street.  

A real set of an imaginary building set in a real building... But where's the real building?

They have managed to figure out what works to teach kids all kinds of things.  Silly, funny, fun, and deeply educational, they have a huge output, with everything from celebrity sing-alongs (Paul Simon singing "Me and Julio"), to parodies of famous stories ("Lord of the Crumbs," a send-up of "Lord of the Rings" with the memorable line "One dessert to rule them all...").  

Of course, they're best known for their teaching videos.  My favorite is still "Three is a magic number" but it's hard to choose just one favorite from the entire set.   

(Later comment: As Fred pointed out in his comment, "Three" is actually by "Schoolhouse Rock," which is a different company than Sesame School.  Equally great, but not the same.  My error.  Let me then suggest that the Count, counting, is a third great Sesame Street video.)  

BUT... the question is really this:  How does one place manage to produce so much magic?  

I visited the studio in 2011 and was fascinated by the location of the studio and where so much magic was made in the real world... and that leads to todays' Challenge:  

1.  Where are the studios where the live-action Sesame Street videos are created in the United States?  (Can you find the street address for the studios?) 
2.  The studio location is pretty large, and as you remember from last winter, it sometimes snows in the northeastern US.  How can Cookie Monster get to work if the studio streets are snowed in? Can you find the snow removal status of the street(s) where the studio is located? 
3. (Harder)  The studio has temporarily blocked of one of the streets adjacent to the main building.  On on the northernmost corner of the block just to the southeast of the main building, there is now a vacant lot.  Can you figure out what the last business to occupy that vacant lot was?  (If you're really curious, who owns that property now, and how much did they buy it for?)  

The point of this particular Challenge is to see if you can figure out HOW to figure out the answers.  This is slightly harder than some, but straight-forward if you remember what rules of thumb we've covered.  Trust me--it's not as crazy hard as it sounds. 

Search on!  (And be sure to tell us how you found the answers.) 


  1. Before I start this search just need make a friendly correction ;-). SchoolhouseRock! created "Three Is a Magic Number" and not Sesame Street. I am big fan and grew up on it. I can't recite the Preamble, but I can sing it.


  2. Query [where is sesame street filmed] skipped over wikipedia to IMDB IMDB finding exact address

    1) “most complete address” Kaufman Astoria Studios - 3412 36th Street, Astoria, Queens, New York City, New York, USA
    2) Manhattan, New York

    Now check wikipedia (same SERP page) to confirm (Control F “filming”)
    “ In 1982, Sesame Street began filming at Unitel Studios on 57th Street, but relocated to Kaufman Astoria Studios in 1993, when the producers decided they needed more space”

    Out of curiosity I had a look at another search result “10-fascinating-facts-about-sesame-street” and found

    “The show itself is filmed in Astoria, Queens, but the actual location of Sesame Street has been under debate for years. It is intended to be a neighborhood in Manhattan, though which exactly is up for debate, even amongst staffers of the show. Some suggest the Upper West Side, and others claim that it is modeled after the Alphabet City area of the Lower East Side. Some detail oriented investigators have tried to pin down the location based on clues from the show itself, including zip codes printed on envelopes and background shots of characters walking around.”

    So carrying on now as a ‘detail oriented investigator’...

    Next SERP is the Interactive Set Map
    & click on the icon for 123 Sesame Street -street sign & you find “how do you get to Sesame Street summary- take subway heading east to Queens.

    Query [queens, new york "snow status on street"]
    SERP New York City

    Address seems to be 34-12 36th Street Zipcode 11106 Building is identified on the map & under Searched Locations property details are available.Jump over to Google Maps to see the vacant lot & used the streetview timeline back to 2007 but it was vacant at that time as well. Address 36-6 - 36-12 34th Ave. (don’t have access to google earth)

    Using 36-12 34th Ave & New York Plow Map owner is/was IPA 34TH STREET LLC
    Click on Property Records

    Using address at NYC Office of the City Register (ACRIS) obtained Block 00644 Lot 0032 but to verify I check the View Map & good thing I did because it looks like its Lot 0028.

    Helen Vlachos sold to Corner Piece Astoria LLC for $3million January 2010 - confirm view tax map - next to road ‘closed & discontinued i.e. 36th Street’ next to the Astoria Studio (New owner ℅ the Kaufman Organization@ 34 -12 36th Street) And we’ve come back full circle to Kaufman Astoria Studios.

    Confirm one more time . Click on Tax View Map .Using Astoria Studios ‘34-12 36th Street’ I get Block 00643 Lot 0001. Astoria placed a mortgage on their property for $19m in 2011. Confirmed.

  3. I was already at Wikipedia (see previous comment) so searched there for [ sesame street ] to Sesame Street. Under Production it lists Kaufman Astoria Studios as their current filming location. Going over to Kaufman Astoria Studios the second slide on their homepage confirms that Sesame Street is currently filming there.

    1. The studio contact page lists their address as
    Kaufman Astoria Studios
    34-12 36th Street,
    Astoria, NY 11106

    Next searched for [ new york city snow removal status map ] gave me New York City's Official PlowNYC Website

    2. Put in the intersection of 36 Ave and 36 St. and then clicking on the right will allow Cookie Monster to know whether the streets have been cleared.

    For the next part I went into Google Maps Streetview. I navigated to the corner of 34th Ave. and 36th St. Under the address in the upper left corner has timeline view. I went to 2007 but the view was too poor to make out what was on the corner. I shifted to 2009 view 34 Ave. and 36th St Corner in 2009

    3. J.V. Hellenic Auto
    It appears Kaufman Astoria owns it now with the trucks parked there but I have not searched for more info yet.

    1. Fred - How did you figure that J. V. Helenic Auto owned that location?

    2. I was in the Timeline of Street View of the location. The view of 2007 was too blurry, but in 2009 you can read the sign very clearly.

  4. I left off the previous business at the location which was J. Vlachos Hellenic Service Station Inc which was signed with Exxon in 1979.

    1. Using a different approach regarding what business was on this site Query [new york buildings historical records] SERP “A Guide to Researching the History of a New York City Building” input the address (36-06 34 Ave Queens) & it links via to a pdf copy of the Certificate of Occupancy in 1961 showing that it was licensed as gas/service station. There’s a second certificate dated 1938 which suggests it was a dwelling previously.

      I provided previously a link to the NYC ACRIS & it will require input of the Block 00644 Lot 0028 to do the search.

      I gave the formatting a try. Thanks.

  5. Good day, Dr. Russell, fellow SearchResearchers


    [live action sesame street studios]in web and Books
    Sesame Street Wikipedia Ctr-F [Filming.] Found Kaufman Astoria Studios in 1993

    [Kaufman Astoria Studios] in Google Maps Searched in Street view the blocked street.

    [sesame street]

    [vacant lots near "Kaufman Astoria studios"]

    Kaufman Astoria Studios plans to open outdoor studio this summer (2013)

    Kaufman-Astoria continues path of destruction. March 16, 2014

    Queens Loses a Street and Gains a Slice of Hollywood

    I need to work more on questions 2 and 3.


    1. Where are the studios where the live-action Sesame Street videos are created in the United States? (Can you find the street address for the studios?)
    A: From and Studios address. Kaufman Astoria Studios
    34-12 36th Street, Astoria, NY 11106

    1. [sesame street unknown facts]

      Results lead to many pages with facts that I didn't know and to the following links.

      Muppet Wiki
      Sesame Workshop (formerly the Children's Television Workshop, or CTW)

    2. Sesame Street in Mexico was "Plaza Sesamo" It always was very good and has been in and out. Other TV series like that was "El Tesoro del Saber". I don't know why in Mexico and Latin America this kind of shows aren't broadcasted anymore.

      Plaza Sesamo English Wikipedia
      Plaza Sesamo website
      El Tesoro del Saber
      El Tesoro del saber music video

  6. First 2 were quite easy. [sesame street studios] showed me Kaufman Astoria Studios in Astoria, Queens NYC. Address is 34-12 36th St Astoria, NY.

    searched [snow removal status queens] and found quite a bit which was fun. gave info and i clicked through the technology section for maps showing the progress of plows! and the status of roads

    the 3rd question was tough. First tricky part was to figure out where exactly you were talking about. I eventually used street view to find the empty lot. found a useful tool to find out the street address from a pin on a google map here: So the address of the lot is 36-06 34th Avenue, Astoria (came up as Long Island City too). bunch of dead ends to start, but eventually found this very helpful article by the NYPL which told me to figure out the BBL (borough-block-lot) designation 4-644-28. Fortunately, the first database I used ACRIS worked great. I had already found in my early searches that the lot was owned by Olga Vlachos, but did not give a business. This time, it showed J Vlachos as the owner of Hellenic Service Station through 1994 when they paid off the mortgage. The lot is empty by 2007 (courtesy of google maps street view history) with no change of family, so I'm confident that that was the last business on that lot.

    checked 1 more database to be sure. found the zoning code as G2- Garage/Gas Station. I think that's all.

  7. An unrelated question: how does one add pretty links like Rosemary and Fred's in their comments above?

    1. Or, more generally, the comments field accepts a limited subset of HTML for input. Thus, you can use BOLD and italic in addition to links, as is illustrated by the article Ramón points to.

    2. Here's how: <b> will turn on the bolding while </b> will turn it off.

    3. Or, to give the example here:
      <a href="">Visit W3Schools</a>

  8. Well, PREVIEW vanished on me so here is PUBLISH


    Your reference to southeast. I figured you meant south east that is 35 Ave and 36 St. I spent quite awhile investigating the building that 5 Napkins was in. Now I see other searchers are not looking southeast but are looking east and ending up a block north of 5 Napkins.

    Clarification requested please so I can try to nail the last part of this.


    jon tU

  9. Sure. A little clarity might help out.

    Here's what I wrote:

    "The studio has temporarily blocked of one of the streets adjacent to the main building. On on the northernmost corner of the block just to the southeast of the main building, there is now a vacant lot."

    The question here is "where's the vacant lot." Everyone has figured out that the studio is the Kaufman Studios at 34-12 36th St, Astoria, NY. If you look carefully at the map, you'll see that 36th Street is blocked off between 34th and 35th Avenues. The main building is between 35th Street and 36th Street.

    So "On on the northernmost corner of the block just to the southeast of the main building" is the block between 34th and 35th Avenues, and between 35th and 36th Streets. That's the block of interest.

    The empty lot I'm interested in is the NORTHERN most part of that block--it's a currently unoccupied lot. (It's to the NE of the main building.) It's the property located at: 40.757569, -73.923174

    Does that help?

  10. Thanks Dan

    In the document that describes NYC giving Kaufman the sole use of 36 street to use as a backlot for 39 years it says the restaurant [5 napkins] is southeast of the closed street and that was what I had figured out using Google Maps and Bing and some others.

    Does anyone know how the building addresses in that area come about ? They seem strange to me. for instance 34-12 among hundreds of similar. Is it what is used here but with a hyphen ? For instance 3412.

    jon tU

  11. 1. [Sesame Street video production] Wikipedia
    Kaufman Astoria Studios. Location 35th Ave., 35th, 36th, and 37th Sts., New York, New York

    40°45?27.74?N 73°55?25.77?W

    GeoHack to see where the co ordinates lead. Right back to Kaufman Astoria Studios

    Google Maps now to see what's there

    2. No idea

    3. I was initially mistaken in the question's location directions

    36 Street between 34 Ave and 35 Ave has been demapped for 39 years to make a backlot for outdoor scenes for Kaufman Jan 2011

    "the elimination, discontinuance and closing of 36th Street between 35th Avenue and 34th Avenue;"

    Same document confirms
    "To the southeast of the site is a restaurant in Astoria Studios Historic District." This is 5 Napkin Burger closed in Dec 2013.

    However Dan wants the lot on the block to the north of this. So, the doc mentioned above also states

    "At the north-end of this block is a vacant lot formerly used as a gas station and now owned by the Studio (Lot 28, Block 644)" No idea of price.

    jon tU