Boerum Hill

Neighborhoods flooded by film crews could get relief under a proposed ‘Bill of Rights’

Brooklyn saw 12,534 film shoots in 2018, mostly in Williamsburg, Greenpoint

May 2, 2019 Mary Frost
Councilmember Inez Barron has introduced two bills that aim to help out residents who have been inconvenienced by movie and film production. DUMBO, shown above, is one of the most popular neighborhoods in Brooklyn to film. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
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It’s one of the most frequent complaints made by residents of Brooklyn’s scenic neighborhoods: film crews and their paraphernalia flooding local streets, taking up parking and disrupting deliveries to local businesses.

New York City Councilmember Inez Barron says that beleaguered New Yorkers deserve a “Bill of Rights” protecting them from such incursions.

Barron, who represents Brooklyn’s District 42 (D-East New York, New Lots), has introduced two bills aimed at helping residents who have a hard time getting to their homes, parking spaces or Access-A-Rides because production companies have taken over the area. Adding to residents’ frustration is the perception that different rules seem to apply in different neighborhoods, or even from block to block.

The first bill, Intro 1495-2019, would create a community and media Bill of Rights, with the aim of producing clear and consistent guidelines for production companies. The bill would provide rules regarding parking, safety, sanitation and communications. Co-sponsors of this bill include Councilmembers Adrienne Adams, Laurie Cumbo, Alicka Ampry-Samuel and Kalman Yeger.

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A second bill, Intro 1515, co-sponsored by Adams, would create a seven-member task force to mitigate the negative economic impact of film and television production on local communities. At least two members of this task force would be business owners working in a neighborhood affected by a high volume of film shoots. The task force would review complaints made to 311, take an economic survey, encourage temporary and permanent job opportunities and more.

“The intent and goal of Intro 1495 and Intro 1515 is to foster better relationships between the media, film and entertainment companies and our communities, which include our residents and local businesses,” Barron told the Brooklyn Eagle on Wednesday.

Barron’s office told the Eagle that inconsistent procedures left many residents and businesses owners out in the cold.

While production companies are required to post flyers in the community explaining set locations and street closures, some buildings receive the notices and some don’t. People plugged into their local community board may receive advance information or receive parking vouchers, but not others.

Many production companies make a donation to a local organization or youth group as a way to help compensate for the inconvenience, but it may be a group some residents are not familiar with.

In 2018, NYC’s 311 received 1,329 complaints about film or television production citywide. This was up from 1,083 in 2017 and 1,053 in 2016.

It’s not about being overly stringent with production companies, Barron’s office said, but about finding ways to make the filmmaking event work for both the community and the production company.

“I look forward to collaborating with the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, my colleagues, community boards, small business owners and NYC residents, as we identify solutions to the multi-layered issues that arise when filming occurs in our neighborhoods,” Barron said.

Media production going up

According to the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, media production has gone up citywide in recent years, especially episodic TV series. Altogether, the productions account for more than 305,000 jobs, and provide an economic output of $104 billion.

Figures obtained from NYC’s Open Database show that the city issued 41,424 daily film permits in 2018. Of these, 20,845 were in Manhattan, 12,534 were in Brooklyn, 4,404 were in Queens, 1,129 were in the Bronx and 512 were in Staten Island.

But some neighborhoods in Brooklyn bear more of the brunt than others. In Community Board 1’s Greenpoint/Williamsburg neighborhoods, 5,659 daily film permits were issued in 2018 — roughly a quarter of all film permits filed in Brooklyn. That averages more than 15 film shoots a day in the area — though some are student films and photo shoots, and so are considered “low impact.”

Another area slammed by frequent filming in Brooklyn is Community Board 2’s Brooklyn Heights/DUMBO/Boerum Hill neighborhoods. In 2018, the city issued 1,851 daily film permits for this area, or roughly five a day.

Last year, business owners on Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights told the Eagle that production crews and cast members spent very little money at area restaurants and other businesses. On top of that, they said, regular customers and delivery trucks had no place to park during filming.

The Greenpoint ZIP code of 11222 had the greatest number of daily film permits issued in Brooklyn last year. Next came Brooklyn Heights/DUMBO in the 11021 ZIP Code. Third was Boerum Hill in 11217. Data from NYC’s Open Data project
The Greenpoint ZIP code of 11222 had the greatest number of daily film permits issued in Brooklyn last year. Next came Brooklyn Heights/DUMBO in the 11021 ZIP Code. Third was Boerum Hill in 11217. Data from NYC’s Open Data project

The NYPD posts “No Parking” notices in advance, and parking spaces can be held a maximum of 24 hours in advance of the shoot time as they become available.

On Tuesday, production parking assistant Martin Davis, of Iconic Parking, was holding parking spaces open with traffic cones on Montague Street for a Maybelline commercial shoot that was scheduled for the next day.

Davis said that he often allows people to park in the spaces that he is trying to hold open if they tell him they’ll just be 20 minutes, or even an hour and a half, as long as they are gone when they say they will be.

“They’ll be nice, we’ll be nice,” Davis told the Eagle. “We do allow a lot of parking the day before a shoot.” But “never on shoot day,” he added.

If people discovered that their cars have been removed, they can call 311, tell them their license plate number, and learn where the production’s workers moved the car. The production company also keeps a log listing the locations of any relocated vehicle. Additionally, a copy of this log is furnished to the local precinct.

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