Lights, Camera, Action: GSA’s Hamilton House Heads to the Oscars

By Renee Miscione
General Services Administration

NEW YORK, Feb. 16, 2011 – It’s a scene featured in almost all of the television ads for the Academy Award-nominated film “Black Swan.” The beautiful young ballerina is being presented as the chosen dancer for the coveted role of the white swan. She is standing above the admiring crowd, poised midway on an elegant semicircular spiral staircase -- in GSA’s Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House in New York City.  

"Black Swan" is just the latest in a long list of feature films, television programs, and more that have used the stately customhouse as backdrop. The building will also be featured in the HBO series “Boardwalk Empire,” as well as an upcoming Delta Airlines commercial.

The rental of the buildings, called “outleasing,” and licensing effort is coordinated by Wes French of the GSA Northeast and Caribbean Region’s Real Estate Division. Licenses for use of historic properties, such as the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, are issued under special provisions of the National Historic Preservation Act. Any revenue received goes directly into GSA's Historic Buildings Fund to provide funds for improvements in our historic buildings. Other licenses are issued under the Cooperative Use Act, with the proceeds going to the Federal Buildings Fund.  

While the customhouse is probably the GSA Northeast and Caribbean Region’s most popular building with location scouts, it is not the only one.  

On a recent cold February weekend in New York City, a film crew busily removed several feet of snow and ice – the result of this season's many storms – turning the street that runs between the Jacob K. Javits and the Ted Weiss Federal Buildings into a balmy summer setting for a scene in “Tower Heist.”

GSA’s property management team for the buildings watched real movie magic in the making as the street was first transformed from winter to summer, and then as the actors turned in more Oscar-worthy performances as they pretended not to be cold during the filming.  

The Ted Weiss Federal Building will have its own star turn and has been used for another upcoming motion picture “I Don’t Know How She Does It,” starring Sara Jessica Parker and Pierce Brosnan, and based on the best-seller by the same name.

Licenses for filming at federal buildings, one of the functions of GSA's National Outlease Program to encourage fiscally responsible asset management, give GSA properties great exposure and, especially in the case of historic properties, are additional sources of revenue.

In almost all cases, the success of this licensing and outleasing effort is because to the extensive work and coordination of the GSA team, including the property management offices that assist with tenant coordination, insight and consulting, as well as the Federal Protective Service.  

Read more about GSA buildings in movies>>

Cover photo: The spiral staircase in GSA's Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House in New York City plays a leading role in "Black Swan."


A film crew worker shovels snow at New York's Jacob K. Javits Federal Building   snow removal at entrance path to the Jacob K. Javits Federal Building.
A film crew worker shovels snow at New York's Jacob K. Javits Federal Building in preparation for a February "summer movie" scene.   Even though snow still covered the ground in other parts of New York, not a speck is left along this entrance path to the Jacob K. Javits Federal Building.

Last Reviewed 2011-02-16