By Gary Tomei
Annunziata Gianzero’s article in the July 2016 issue of WestView, “Diversity Matters” and the three subsequent articles written by her, contain some valid arguments for the idea that films, and TV series, should be shot in NYC. However, those contentions are, more or less, the same points made by real estate developers who wish to continue their overdevelopment of our Greenwich Village community. It could be argued that real estate development creates jobs, improves the City’s economic health, and contributes to diversity by the employment of minorities, and the hiring of women.
From my perspective, the one telling point in all of Ms. Gianzero’s WestView articles is contained in the March 2017 issue, which states, “We care about preserving our communities, our eco-system, and our small businesses.”
Granted, there are some benefits afforded by real estate development, as well as the film industry, but the culture of “Big Money,” as well as the celebrity and glamour of films, have become all-pervasive, while the rights and quality of life of the ordinary citizen have all but been disregarded. Truly, the preservation of communities has become an afterthought.
In a recent article in Crain’s New York Business, dated April 9, 2017, it was reported that New Yorkers are making up to $20,000 per day renting their homes for film shoots. However, it also reports that their neighbors are becoming extremely resentful of the intrusion of film productions near their homes.
I, and other members of the West 13th Street 100 Block Association, can attest to the problems that often accompany a film shoot on a block. To name just a few: The trucks that transport equipment and personnel often damage trees and tree limbs, as well as tree guards and curbs; they also take up limited parking spaces for people who live on the block (many of whom can not afford $600 per month for a parking garage space); the trucks and generators run for hours spewing poisonous fumes into the atmosphere; pedestrian traffic is often interrupted; and shoots sometimes run into the evening hours with filming on the street, using high intensity lights, all of which cause residents to lose precious sleep.
Because the Village has such a unique ambiance, film companies love to film here, and we certainly have many more shoots in our neighborhood than elsewhere. However, we are under siege, not only with film shoots but with street fairs as well. The very essence of the Village is threatened by avaricious developers also promising jobs and diversity.
With respect to film shoots, we have had some modest success in having the film companies make a contribution to our block association so that we can maintain the beauty of the block by replacing lost trees and installing new tree guards. In turn, one or more film company has agreed to park their trucks on commercial streets rather than on our narrow residential block. They have also agreed to cut down on the night shooting and the intensity of the lights when they are obliged to shoot after dark.
In all of this, I cannot honestly say that the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) has been helpful in mediating any problems between our block association and the film companies. MOME, as it is called, appears to have the attitude that the film companies have no obligation to the residents of the blocks they invade. That imperious attitude was not what Mayor de Blasio promised us when he asked for our vote.
NYC has a rich history of artful filmmaking, due largely to the Commission built by Mayor Lindsay over 50 years ago. We are now developing a reputation as a driving force within the industry. Finally, actors and directors are staying in town rather than fleeing to California to “make it in show biz.”
The industry employs A LOT of New Yorkers (385,000, according to MOME) and brings business to local “mom-and-pop shops,” which the West Village aims to preserve.
If you complain about too much filming on your street, MOME will take it off the “permit availability list” for six months at a time. The Office is doing everything it can to keep the citizens and artists happy and compatible.
Sadly, the West Village is already becoming too expensive for artists to live anymore. It would be a shame if they couldn’t afford to make their art here.