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GSA buildings play community role via film licensing and outleasing program

November 15, 2022

By Amanda Smith

Photo of production crew preparing for a shoot outside of the Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse in Lower Manhattan.
Production crew preparing for a shoot outside of the Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse in Lower Manhattan. Photo courtesy of GSA.

The Oct. 6 episode of Law and Order: SVU featured a blink-and-you-might-miss-it cameo appearance from an unlikely source - the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House in Lower Manhattan. While the landmark custom house is featured in many film and TV productions, from Ghostbusters to Players, it is just one of a number of federal buildings that share the spotlight.

Thanks to GSA's Film Licensing and Event Outleasing program, federal buildings across the country have appeared on both the big and small screens in projects such as American Hustle, Wolf of Wall Street, Saturday Night Live, Big Little Lies, Billions and more. In GSA Region 2, New York scouts and production crews frequently use the Ted Weiss Federal Building, the Jacob K. Javits Federal Building, the Silvio J. Mollo Federal Building, and the Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse for film locations.

“We recently received our fourth Law and Order production request this year,” said David Anthone, supervisory historic preservation and outleasing officer for GSA’s Northeast and Caribbean Region. “The COVID-19 pandemic forced many programs to stop production for nearly two years so it’s exciting to finally be back up - partnering with the media industry and community again.”

Anthone ensures all film shoots are properly licensed and managed, which includes close coordination with the local Public Buildings Service - Building Management Office and Department of Homeland Security - Federal Protective Service to ensure security, onsite management and cleaning. Since most shoots take place after building occupants leave for the day, it’s a great way to diversify the use of federal resources with little impact to day-to-day operations.

Under the National Historic Preservation Act, public historic buildings can be leased to non-federal entities for recreational, education and cultural activities. Revenue generated from these partnerships is reinvested in GSA’s historic inventory through a unique program called the Historic Building Fund that supports restoration, conservation and rehabilitation projects. In addition to partnering with private commercial entities, the licensing program plays a vital role in local communities by working with schools, nonprofit and art organizations to outlease public buildings for graduation ceremonies, farmers’ markets, public meetings and temporary art events.

“The outleasing program is unique in that it not only generates much-needed revenue for historic buildings, it also builds community engagement and pride of place within communities. Giving back to the community is responsible stewardship,” Anthone said. “As federal employees, we need to remember that these buildings do more than just serve our client agencies. They serve the American public, are resources of local pride and springboards for economic development.”

Last Reviewed: 2022-11-15