Take your shoot and shove it! Brooklyn Heights fights movie-making takeovers

December 3, 2012 By Raanan Geberer Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Movie filming on Joralemon Street by Don Evans CROP OUT TOP.JPG
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After years of complaining about being New York’s “movie central”, Brooklyn Heights residents have had enough.

City Councilman Stephen Levin is demanding that the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting place the neighborhood on the city’s “hot spot” list, which would result in a moratorium on filming in the Heights.

Because of Brooklyn Heights’ picturesque historic brownstones and views of the Brooklyn Bridge, the area has been a favorite of film and TV crews for years. Notices on parking meters and street signs announcing filming on a particular street, vans for prop men or film electricians, mobile dressing rooms for actors, and food trucks for the crews have all become familiar sights.

“In October and November alone, the community played host to at least 14 different productions, including at least three major motion pictures,” Levin said. “Last Wednesday, two films, “Delivery Man” and “Winter’s Tale,” were granted filming permits on the same day and were allowed to hold up to eight blocks of parking.”

The loss of parking is a particular sore point in the neighborhood, which has narrow streets and comparatively few parking spaces.

“Residents of a single neighborhood, especially one that is primarily residential, like Brooklyn Heights, should not have to bear the burden of on-street filming on an almost daily basis,” said Levin.

Judy Stanton, executive director of the Brooklyn Heights Association, agreed. She added that another reason filmmakers like the Heights is because it has 13 churches and synagogues, which crews often use as staging areas in between scenes, storage areas and food-service areas.

As far as parking is concerned, she said, one particular problem is that of film crew members parking their private cars in spaces reserved for film production vehicles. While this is not allowed under the rules of the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting, she said, it is very difficult for police to enforce.

Andrea Demetropoulos, owner of the Rocco and Jezebel pet shop at 89 Pineapple Walk, started a petition at her shop asking for a film moratorium, and so far has collected 40 signatures.

Things have gotten so bad, she said, “that once, crews were filming at the toy store two stores away, and my husband was walking there and they wouldn’t let him enter our own store.”

She said that recently, a meeting on the subject included herself, Councilman Levin, Stanton of the BHA, a representative of Community Board 2 and a someone from the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting.

“We tried to explain that the Heights is only five blocks wide and 15 blocks long,” she said. “They told us that they couldn’t have a moratorium on a neighborhood, because they’re not organized that way.

“They could have a moratorium on filming on one street — for example, Pierrepont Street — but that would just shift filming to the next street and crowd things there.”

A resident of Grace Court, who declined to give his name, alleged that when film production companies apply for permits, they go up and down the street posting “no parking” notices — even before the permits are given.

“Recently, in Grace Court Alley, we had to get all cars off the street because they were filming a scene that didn’t even have any actors — just a horse running down the street. They didn’t want any modern-day cars in the scene,” he said.

“Because of one scene, we had to lose 72 hours of parking [also taking into account alternate-side-of-the-street parking rules],” he said. “Finding non-street parking in this neighborhood is expensive — it’s $30 a night in garages.”

He pointed out that the former Love Lane garages, which many neighborhood residents relied on, were converted to condos several years several years ago, further exacerbating the situation.

“Why can’t they build a Heights street at the Silvercup Studios [in Astoria] and use that as a location?” he asked.

The Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, which oversees the Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting, told the Eagle in a statement:

“We are currently evaluating the situation in Brooklyn Heights and are working with the community and elected officials to address their concerns.”

However, they stressed that the needs of local residents should be balanced by the needs of the city’s economy in general.

“It’s also important that residents understand that the film crews they see on their block are their fellow New Yorkers hard at work trying to support their families. The local production industry is made up of 130,000 New Yorkers and brings in $7.1 billion to the city’s economy each year,” the statement read.

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