Businesses struggle as film business booms in Brooklyn
by Jess Berry
Jan 28, 2015 | 5790 views | 0 0 comments | 200 200 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Brooklyn has been the background of countless great films and television shows — from Annie Hall and Do the Right Thing to Boardwalk Empire and Girls, and the borough’s media prowess has only continued to grow.

But what many viewers do not realize, or even consider, is the impact that the production of these movies and shows has on the local communities where shooting takes place.

A coalition of business and civic associations from Brooklyn finally had the chance to bring their concerns to the table last week, when Councilman Stephen Levin organized a City Council hearing to discuss the hardships of film shoots on neighborhood residences and businesses.

"Our communities are being overrun on a nearly daily basis by television and movie shoots," said Josef Szende, executive director of the Atlantic Avenue BID. "While we understand that the TV and film industry are a source of our city's economic and cultural vitality, we can no longer allow our communities to be used as a public sound stage."

During shoots, 18-wheeler trucks will park on local streets, sometimes for multiple days at a time.

Business owners and residents have complained about monopolized parking, obstructed storefront, noise pollution created by generators and large portable bathrooms.

Between Columbus Day and Christmas in 2014, Atlantic Avenue saw 17 days of filming. Szende estimates that each shoot day costs an obstructed merchant over $1,000.

"I don't think they realize the financial hardship they put you under,” said Charlie Sahadi, owner of the popular Middle Eastern market, Sahadi’s, which has been in operation on Atlantic Avenue for over 65 years.

“When a production is taking parking, customers cannot park and they don't shop, simple as that,” he said. “It was bad enough when we had shoot a month, but there are times during the past year when we have had three or more in a month.”

Sahadi and others called for reforms to the current system, including reprieve from television and film shoots before select holidays, adequate forewarning from the city, and a solution to encourage film crews to utilize local merchants without business owners having to offer a discount.

While acknowledging that the film industry has brought great commerce to the borough, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said that work needs to be done to ease some of the consequences on local communities.

“The benefits that have been brought have also resulted in unintended impacts to many neighborhoods, largely as a result of film and television production in residential neighborhoods and along retail corridors,” Adams said.

Legislation before the City Council, Intro 84, would require reports monthly and annually that include data ranging from the filming locations authorized by permit and the impacts to on-street parking to the number of jobs created by each shoot and the mean and median compensation of the jobs.

“The data that will be generated from [Intro 84] will allow residents, businesses and local policy makers to better plan and distribute the benefits and impacts of the film and television industries,” Adams said.

Business owners and civic leaders say that the recommended reforms are not aimed at hurting the film and television industry, but will hopefully create an environment where producers and community residents can happily coexist.

“I have nothing against people in the film and TV industry, but I ask please, don't put us out of business,” Sahadi said. “The little guy has to have a chance."

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