Moratorium will give residents a film break
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
For years, residents and businesses have begged officials to do something about non-stop film production in Brooklyn Heights.
On Tuesday, the Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA) sent out word that the New York City Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting has designated the North Heights as a film “Hot Zone,” with a partial moratorium on film and TV production.
“We are pleased to report, albeit with cautious optimism, that the NYC Film Office has granted the BHA’s request for a break from the excessive film shoots that had a lot of Brooklyn Heights residents complaining during the past several months,” BHA said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Our caution relates to the fact that at this time only a portion of the Heights was to be designated off limits,” BHA added.
BHA says they worked with City Councilman Steve Levin’s office to obtain the moratorium. Levin introduced a bill in August that would require the Film Office to release reports on a monthly and an annual basis to provide more transparency about filming in New York City.
"Often we ask Steve Levin to get into the act and add pressure . . . Levin's office and Heights residents are sensible about the City's claim to be raising revenues from the film industry and some filming is tolerated or even welcomed,” BHA Executive Director Judy Stanton told the Brooklyn Eagle on Tuesday. “But with ‘The Cobbler’ and several big TV shows on this last go round, they tipped the scale too far in the North Heights and the Film Office eased up."
The designation took a year to obtain -- Levin first asked the Film Office for the moratorium in December 2012. He told the Eagle at that time, “In October and November alone, the community played host to at least 14 different productions, including at least three major motion pictures.”
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,” he said.
Since then, things have only gotten worse, residents say. Since this past summer, Brooklyn Heights residents have endured towed cars, idling truck fumes, porta-potties and garbage produced during the filming of “The Carrie Diaries,” “The Normal Heart,” “Big Bang Theory,” 50 Cent’s “Drama,” “Boardwalk Empire” and “Anesthesia,” just to mention the major names.
While commercials and smaller productions often use the neighborhood as a set, Brooklyn Heights tends to attract big production period movies and TV shows like “Winter’s Tale” and “Broadway Empire,” involving cars, extra costumes and special effects that are especially disruptive.
This past week, Adam Sandler’s “The Cobbler” camped inside historic Plymouth Church, “with production trucks idling day and night under residents windows,” according to BHA.
Heights residents were hit hard during one week in mid-November, when streets and sidewalks were clogged every single day – and night -- with the lights, cables and cameras filming the TV shows “Hostages” and “Person of Interest.”
BHA had asked the Film Office to designate all of Brooklyn Heights as a “Hot Zone,” but the city chose to only protect the North Heights, where residents had been most vocal about disruptions.
In a recent email sent to Councilman Steve Levin’s office, the Film Office wrote: “We just designated a chunk of the Heights as off limits: Clark Street to Cranberry Street between Columbia Heights and Henry Street…for a few months.”
BHA said the city added a caveat. “A couple of shoots will have to be grandfathered in as they have already gone to contract but as December winds down after the New Year it should be extremely quiet in that area.”
“So far so good, dare we say it, so we hope that all quarters of Brooklyn Heights will benefit from this quiet break from filming,” says BHA, thanking Councilman Levin for pushing the ban.
Marybeth Ihle, press secretary for Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting, told the Brooklyn Eagle in August, “Any issues arising from temporary work on location can be resolved through the production manager on site, or by contacting the Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting by dialing 311.” The agency can be contacted directly at 212-489-6710.