By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
If it seems like there’s more filming on the streets of Brooklyn than ever before – there is.
The city is going out of its way to encourage filming of movies, TV shows and commercials, because the industry provides “high quality jobs in an era when low-paying service jobs have become the norm,” according to the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting.
The Boston Consulting Group released a study in May reporting that New York City's film sector is the strongest in its history, generating spending of $7.1 billion in 2011, and employing 130,000 people.
But residents of the more photogenic neighborhoods – like Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO – say they are paying the price for all this economic activity. The streets of historic Brooklyn Heights are now clogged with film trucks on a regular basis and local businesses and residents are fuming.
“Filming is out of control,” said Andrea Demetropoulos, who owns the Rocco and Jezebel pet shop at 89 Pineapple Walk in Brooklyn Heights. Demetropoulos says she is fed up and has started a petition at the shop. “Please tell people to call the Mayor’s Office and tell them, ‘If you only knew how difficult it is to do our job with all this filming.”
“It’s not just me. Three customers and the UPS guy this morning told me they couldn’t park anywhere. They’re killing the people who live here. It does interfere with local businesses and residents. ”
Adding insult to injury, production companies had blocked off numerous parking spaces that they never even used, Demetropoulos told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. “They’re all over the place – Columbia Heights, Clark Street, Hicks, Henry, and they take over the streets a day or two prior to shooting. This entire neighborhood is only 5 by 13 blocks. There needs to be a moratorium.”
Major films and TV shows being shot in Brooklyn over the last week or two included Delivery Man, Smash, Law and Order: SVU, The Angriest Man in Brooklyn, Noah, Golden Boy, Zero Hour, Orange, 666 Park Avenue, Carrie Diaries, Person of Interest, How to Be a Man, Infamous and Made in Jersey along with a number of commercials, like a New York Lottery spot being filmed on Montague Street and a commercial for Samsung Bora in DUMBO.
Each of those productions comes with trucks, booms, heavy equipment, lighting, vehicles, set pieces and more, and may take over multiple blocks. And this doesn’t include smaller films and commercials, shooting here, there and everywhere – in the Pearl Street Triangle, along the Heights Promenade, inside shops and on sidewalks.
“So many film people don’t think of making a contribution,” said Judy Stanton, Executive Director of the Brooklyn Heights Association. “I can’t keep up with it. They are supposed to reach out to the Brooklyn Heights Association. ‘Delivery Man’ sent us a letter telling me what days they planned to shoot. But they didn’t respond to my emails expressing issues, or giving me a vehicle count.”
She said the filming for this one movie would take place at Plymouth Church, on the Promenade, at the Historical Society, at Heights Kids and on Henry Street. “How many blocks? No answer. I think it’s excessive.”
“More consideration needs to be given to little neighborhoods like this one. Multiple shots at one time is unfair,” she said. “Last week 'Law and Order' and a Lottery commercial were shooting at the same time. The Lottery trucks blocked Montague from Court to Henry street. That really did affect merchants.”
Stanton said that a flower shop had funeral arrangements to deliver but the van couldn’t get anywhere near the store on Montague. “They ended up walking the arrangements to another place where the van had to double park, with one employee in the van and another running out with the arrangements.
“I don’t think the Mayor’s Office cares or is responsive,” she added.
That situation never should have happened, an insider at the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting said. "People should call the office and reach out to us as it’s happening. Don’t wait until they’re gone.”
The agency "strictly limits the amount of parking productions are granted," according to the agency website, "and sends field representatives to shoots to monitor production footprints."
Marybeth Ihle, press secretary for Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting, told the Brooklyn Eagle. “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.
The truck situation may become a bit easier in the future. The Boston Consulting Group, in its report, recommending "streamlining" some processes, such as "truck parking, explosions and car chases."
As to local moratoriums, Ihle said the office “strives to keep film and television productions running smoothly in the city both for the productions and the local community and routinely evaluates the frequency and size of production activity.”
While local neighborhoods may not see much benefit, more than 130,000 New Yorkers are making their living in the film business, she said.
“Whenever you see a film crew on your block whether it’s the camera operator, costume designer or caterer, you’re really seeing your fellow New Yorkers hard at work."