CB1 asks city to rein in film permits

Photo by Yannic Rack The narrow streets around 20 Exchange Pl. — a popular location for movie and TV shoots — make film crews a particular nuisance to some residents and shop owners.

Photo by Yannic Rack
The narrow streets around 20 Exchange Pl. are a popular location for movie and TV shoots — much to chagrin of locals on nearby streets, where production vehicles are often parked even when filming takes place elsewhere.

BY SYDNEY PEREIRA 

Alternate side parking rules are a hassle for car owners across the city, but in a telegenic area such as Downtown Manhattan, there’s an extra headache.

Production companies shooting films and TV shows in the increasingly residential neighborhoods of Lower Manhattan routinely occupy entire blocks where locals would ordinarily be able to park when the other side of the street is being cleaned — even worse, often the actual filming isn’t even happening on that block.

Community Board 1 is trying to work with the city to prevent production crews from blocking vital parking spaces on streets with alternate side rules when the gear and trailers could feasibly be located elsewhere.

“Why is it necessary that you have to take the residents’ alternate-side parking spaces?” said Marc Ameruso, a member and longtime Tribeca resident. “Generally, it’s [about] convenience for them.”

Often, production companies will seek permits to station equipment and vehicles on particular streets merely because they are near the block where the scenes are being shot, meaning that they could be parked elsewhere.

Walking an extra block may be a hassle for cast and crew, acknowledged Ameruso, who has also worked as a location manager for a production company, but in an area where parking is at such a premium, he thinks it’s a reasonable accommodation to local residents.

“It has to be a balancing act between both of us,” said Ameruso. “The community needs quality of life and the film companies need to employ people.”

CB1 passed a resolution in June urging the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment — which issues the permits — not to issue filming permits for the 37 blocks south of Canal Street that have alternate side parking if the production company isn’t actually filming on that block.

The accommodation is needed, according to Ameruso, because Downtown neighborhoods have seen a surge in residential growth since 2000. Between 2000 and 2010 alone, the number of residents in CB1 increased by 77 percent,  according to census data cited in the board’s fiscal year 2019 report. And the population of families in those neighborhoods has skyrocketed during that time. The number of young people under 19 increased by 67 percent in Tribeca, 125 percent in Battery Park City, and a staggering 246 percent in the Financial District. Those trends have only accelerated in the eight years since the last census.

“It’s not like it was in the ’80s and the ’90s,” Ameruso said.

CB1 chairman Anthony Notaro said the board hasn’t received a response yet from MOME about the June resolution.

“We’ve been on record in the past about trying to eliminate or get this problem resolved, and we’ve heard nothing back,” said Notaro. “We’ll push on this and see how we work together.”

The head of MOME, Commissioner Julie Menin, served seven years as CB1 chairwoman between 2005 and 2012, so Notaro believes she’s sensitive to Lower Manhattan’s needs, but he’s still waiting to see how the office will respond to the board’s recommendations.

Menin’s office said the agency is still reviewing the request, but touted her efforts already to ease the film-permit burden on her old stomping grounds.

“We only just received the resolution from CB1, and we will be happy to respond to them in a more formal way,” said a MOME spokesperson. “Film permits in the CB1 area have steadily declined since Commissioner Julie Menin was appointed.”

Film permits dropped by 34 percent in the past two years as a result of Menin’s efforts to push production to neighborhoods that want it and away from those that don’t, according to MOME. And her office has also placed a moratorium on permits for some particularly problematic Downtown blocks.

“In addition, many blocks in CB1 are on our moratorium list, and we are always willing to place blocks on the list if the neighborhood desires it,” the spokesperson added.

Some of the blocks on that list include Lafayette Street between Worth Street and Canal Street, Hudson Street to the West Side Highway between Chambers and Hudson streets, Duane Street between Church Street and West Broadway, and Division Street between Market Street and Broadway.

Though the board’s focus in the June resolution was on residential streets, small business owners in the neighborhood complain the excessive filming permits hurt their businesses, particularly in terms of visibility. Similar to how scaffolding blocks views and signage, a wall of filming trucks that stakes out a street for days on end might cause potential customers to miss their shops and restaurants, said Ann Benedetto, president of the Tribeca Alliance, a small-business group.

“Tribeca is not a shopping center. All the stores in Tribeca rely upon people seeing them [and] stopping by,” said Benedetto, who owns A Uno Tribeca, a boutique on West Broadway between Duane and Reade Streets. “They have to see you. If they don’t see you, you could lose a lot of business.”

Pat Moore, chairwoman of the board’s Quality of Life Committee, is already looking into adding more streets to CB1’s wish list of blocks where unnecessary film-production parking could be banned, but she is acutely aware that community board resolutions are purely advisory, and the next move, if there is any, belongs to MOME.

“Have they accepted our resolution?” Moore asked. “Will they really take it into account? Will they make it their policy?”

So far, she said, “it’s radio silence.”

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