Brooklyn Heights

‘Billions’ of Complaints: Brooklyn Heights residents split on film crews in the neighborhood

August 4, 2015 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn Heights’ own Paul Giamatti was spotted on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade filming scenes for the Showtime show “Billions” last week. While some enjoyed it, many complained that the crews took up two full blocks with their trucks and shut down part of the Promenade. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese
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It’s a day that ends in “y,” so there is likely a film crew shooting a movie or television show somewhere in Brooklyn Heights right now. It’s part of living there — but while some people get a thrill out of spotting their favorite movie star walking down Montague Street, others can’t stand it.

Local actor Paul Giamatti was seen on the Promenade last week while filming scenes from his Showtime show “Billions.” Some people got a kick out of watching him work, but others were disturbed by the fact that the crew shut down a portion of the Promenade and took up two full blocks with their trucks.

“It does divide the neighborhood,” said the Brooklyn Heights Association’s Executive Director Judy Stanton. “If you park in the street or don’t like the congestion, people tend not to like it. Then there are people who open up their houses to film crews, so they must like it.”

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Stanton certainly has her finger on the pulse of the neighborhood. While walking around Brooklyn Heights, the Brooklyn Eagle heard opinions from both sides, and generally, whether or not those denizens owned a car made the biggest difference in their opinions.

“I thought it was exciting when I first moved here,” said Iris Beller, who moved to Hicks Street in 2002. “It gets old quickly, though. They come in here with these huge trucks, take up a ton of parking spaces and cause a lot of traffic. These are narrow streets, and they’re not really meant for those types of trucks.”

Beller did note that film crews typically are very respectful of the neighborhood and try to be courteous and clean up the streets when they’re done. Many in the neighborhood also recognize that filming provides local jobs.

“People who are looking for parking don’t like it, but I think it’s terrific,” said Deanna Dauber, who has had her Remsen Street apartment used in filming. “All of the movie people are very considerate because they like shooting here. If you’re walking down the streets, they’ll stop and let you pass.”

However, not all film crews are created equal. The Eagle witnessed the crew for “Billions” keep people from entering the promenade, which is against the rules that are spelled out on the mayor’s website. When asked to speak with a representative from the film crew, a reporter was given the runaround and ultimately the crew refused to be interviewed on the record.

“There is a long list of rules about parking, how you can’t block fire hydrants and such,” Stanton said. “But if you look around and see how many fire hydrants are blocked, you can see that they don’t follow every rule. If the parks department issues a permit they are going to be interfering with people.”

Since it is unlikely that filming in Brooklyn Heights is going to stop or even slow down anytime soon, most residents realize that they must learn to accept what’s going on in their neighborhoods.

“If I owned a car, it might be more upsetting to me,” said Gene Scott, who has lived in Brooklyn Heights for more than 50 years. “Some people depend on their cars so I can see how it would be frustrating. But what can you do? I just try to enjoy some of the movies or TV shows that have been shot here, like ‘Moonstruck’ or ‘Law and Order.’”

Jim Montemarano, the owner of Cranberry’s deli and bakery at near the corner of Henry and Cranberry streets, told the Eagle, “I used to think that the filming was an inconvenience and an intrusion. But compared to what DUMBO and Brooklyn Bridge Park did to our neighborhood — the traffic, all kinds of people invading Brooklyn Heights — the filming is a drop in the bucket. The neighborhood is overwhelmed. I think a lot of people feel like that.”

Montemarano, whose business goes back to 1977 when Cranberry’s first opened, said so much has changed in Brooklyn Heights.

“We had it to ourselves for so long; we were blessed,” he said.

—Additional reporting by Mary Frost

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