Brooklyn Heights

Some Brooklyn Heights neighbors fuming over ‘Homeland’ car fire

FDNY: Effects 'standard for film shoots'

February 21, 2017 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Some neighbors on Schermerhorn Street in Brooklyn Heights are unhappy that fumes from this burning car, exploded during a “Homeland” TV shoot, permeated their apartments for roughly two hours on Sunday. Photo courtesy of Darryl Rich

Residents of Brooklyn Heights are used to production companies taking over their parking spaces and clogging the neighborhood’s streets and sidewalks as they film movies, commercials and TV shows.

But Sunday’s filming of the TV series “Homeland,” starring Claire Danes, was a bit too much, some said.

Locals aren’t complaining about the explosions and sniper fire on Schermerhorn Street on an otherwise peaceful Sunday. (All to be expected.) Nor are they making a fuss about pitched battles between large numbers of extras dressed as uniformed police, military officers and protesters. (Hey, it’s Brooklyn.)

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But when an SUV was blown up as part of a “presidential motorcade” and the burnt-out vehicle’s hulk oozed smoke for roughly two hours, that’s when resident Bob Grobe drew the line.

Grobe, who lives at 96 Schermerhorn St., told the Brooklyn Eagle that the smoke from the explosion and burn permeated his building’s apartments and lobby, and that was not what the production company had promised.

“Contrary to what the location manager stated earlier in the day,” Grobe said, it was not a “clean burn of just propane, but instead a full-fledged vehicle burn.

“There was an unpleasant metallic odor in our apartment and the building lobby for well over an hour,” he added.


According to the Fire Engineering website, vehicle fires can release hundreds of toxic chemicals into the air. (See update from FDNY below.)

“One board member was able to get the NYPD to send an officer to the building in order to assess the situation,” Grobe said.

Darryl Rich, whose apartment faces the street, told the Eagle that the burning SUV was right below his window.

“The biggest negative was the propane fumes that entered our apartment at 8 a.m. from our AC unit,” he said. “I had to leave at 9 to catch a train at Penn Station, so fortunately I did not have to live long with the terrible fumes.”

Rich added, “I support filming in NYC as a revenue source for the city and can live with the inconvenience that occurs on such an infrequent basis. I would have a problem if this was a regular occurrence, but it has happened twice in five years, and this was the first time it had fumes. Mostly they use our street for parking studio trucks and trailers.

Some residents, however, gave the whole production positive reviews.

Elizabeth Stemmer, who says she has lived in the building for 22 out of her 32 years, told the Eagle, “I think it’s wonderful that ‘Homeland’ is shooting in NYC because it provides jobs for New Yorkers. Second of all, there has really been minimal inconvenience for those of us that live in my building, and it’s even provided a little bit of excitement.”

Stemmer says her apartment faces Boerum Place, and she was not bothered at all by the smell of the smoke.

“The smell of smoke lasted faintly for maybe a few hours and only in the lobby,” she said. “There was no damage done to the building nor the sidewalk. The noise from the simulated gunshots was nothing compared to the usual traffic sounds of Boerum Place. If anything, they sounded faintly of firecrackers off in the distance. And it was the middle of the day on Sunday. No big deal.”

Stemmer added, “Two Sundays ago they simulated an explosion, which also provided a bit of excitement, and even shook the building a little. But then, we’ve had cars crash and plow over the mailbox on the corner, so the carefully simulated explosion up the block … didn’t bother me any.”

Stemmer said she would be disappointed if her building’s board decided to file a complaint.

“There are much bigger issues in the world to be concerned about.  If noise during the day is going to bother you so much, I strongly suggest you reconsider your choice to live in Downtown Brooklyn.”

Grobe, however, said that the NYPD gave residents affected by the fumes a phone number to lodge complaints “in hopes of getting a reprieve from the constant film work on our street.” (212-489-6710, or 646-739-9900 after hours).

He hopes that any complaints have an effect, since another round of filming is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 26.

UPDATE: FDNY spokesperson Frank Dwyer told the Eagle on Wednesday that the effect required no explosion.

“It was a simulated burn with sound effects that took place under the supervision of members of the FDNY Bureau of Fire Prevention – which is standard for film shoots of this nature,” Dwyer said. “Standard procedures and safe practices were used throughout, and the shoot took place without injury. In addition, a reserve fire engine was on scene, which again, is standard procedure.”

Dwyer said filming would proceed as planned.

 


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