Friday, November 12, 2010

Positive Reception for Film Shoots Parking Proposal 

Colorful “No Parking” notices posted on street signs in advance of film shoots throughout the city often prompt the dread and frustration that many New Yorkers associate with inaccessible or unavailable parking spots.

Greenpoint is a particularly frequent site of filming. Several TV series, such as the new CBS police drama “Blue Bloods” and Emmy-winning CBS legal drama “The Good Wife”, shoot on the sets of Broadway Stages, which operates production facilities in converted factories located in the industrial section of the neighborhood, and do external shoots in the neighborhood as well as throughout the city.

On a recent autumn afternoon on Kent Street in the historic district, an old, forgotten notice on a street sign indicated that “The Good Wife” had shot there last spring. Over on Franklin Avenue, new notices were up, announcing that the 20th Century Fox comedy “The Sitter” starring Jonah Hill would be filming there shortly

“It’s a nightmare,” said Vinny Arnold, who has lived in the area for 18 years. “You go away, and all of a sudden they’re having a film shoot…and they tow your car away.”

City Councilman Stephen Levin, who represents Greenpoint, Williamsburg and Fort Green, has submitted a bill to the City Council that would suspend alternate side parking rules for up to seven days on the four consecutive blocks adjacent to filming.

According to Levin, with over 3,000 film permits a year and 27,000 days of shooting recorded in 2008 alone, neighborhoods throughout the city need to contend with inconveniences related to filming on a daily basis in the form of street closures and traffic congestion. He added that the production industry contributes $5 billion a year to the city’s economy and employs approximately 100,000 New Yorkers. Before the entire city council considers the bill it has to be reviewed by the transportation committee.

“This bill seeks to balance the needs of residents in active film locations with the needs of the production industry,” said Hope Reichbach, a spokesperson for Councilman Levin, “by providing more parking spaces for residents and undisturbed filming locations for production companies.”

Arnold said he would welcome a suspension of alternate side parking rules. “I’m not saying the film companies should go away, it’s good for New York City,” said Arnold, ”but they should make parking available.”

“Sometimes when they have their film shoot, let’s say this is the good side [for parking] tomorrow, that’s the side they will be doing their film shoot on and you can’t park on the other side,” said another resident, George Hryciuk.

The location manager for “Blue Bloods”, Jennifer Hoopes, said the new bill proposal would also be beneficial for production companies. “In some cases, in the outer boroughs, production companies can offer alternate parking locations by schools or churches, “ she said, “but in the city that’s pretty impossible.”

“On a big production, you’ll always have to tow somebody,” she said, adding that the productions often made arrangements if residents were moving or handicapped.

The Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting has put together a list of “hot spots,” according to Hoopes, areas that had been particularly hit by filming and where it aims to minimize the number of productions for a period of time.

“The Hasidic area of Williamsburg was getting hit very badly,” she noted, and was “a particular opponent of filming” since for many of them it is against their tradition to watch TV or see movies.

Hoopes said the only drawback of the proposal would be more work for the production companies. In addition to the current requirement that the companies post No Parking notices, the bill would require notices informing residents about the alternate side parking rule suspension.

But for residents such as Kelly Van Valkenburg in Greenpoint, the bill could mean that those “No Parking” signs will prompt more excitement of seeing a celebrity or behind-the-scenes action.

Like movie and TV fans across the nation, Van Valkenburg has sent information about the locations of the film shoot parking notices to the website On Location Vacations, a blog that encourages its readers from all over the country to submit information about when and where film shoots will take place.

“Being a transplant from Virginia, I think it’s really cool to see movies being shot right outside my doorstep,” she said. “I love Greenpoint, I think it’s a picturesque neighborhood…and I think it’s great to see it immortalized on the big screen.”

The new bill, according to Reichbach, “allows New Yorkers to enjoy the excitement of living in an attractive film location without paying the price in traffic congestion and parking shortages.”


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