Film Festival returns to help Downtown


Downtown Express photo by Brett C Vermilyea

Alex Harwood, 4 searched around in the Tribeca Film Festival’s “I Spy” scavenger hunt last weekend

They’re baaack!

The Tribeca Film Festival returned to Lower Manhattan last weekend with some children’s films and activities and will move into a full gallop Tuesday with a horse-drawn procession down Greenwich St. and speeches by Gov. George Pataki, Mayor Mike Bloomberg and the festival’s co-founders, actor Robert De Niro and his partner, Jane Rosenthal. With more films, more venues, more events, more days and more time to plan, this year’s festival is expected to be bigger than 2002, the inaugural year.

Sharon Decker, executive director of the Tribeca Organization, formed to help neighborhood small businesses recover from the economic aftershocks of 9/11, said the festival has a lasting effect even after the crowds and the stars who don’t live in Tribeca move on to the next event.

“That’s how people know the neighborhood,” said Decker. “They know the name, but they don’t know the neighborhood. I really believe the festival is branding the neighborhood and that’s great because people will come back to go to a bar or to a go to a restaurant.”

She said festival organizers have called her many times to recommend businesses in the neighborhood to use for all kinds of services.

“They’ve really made a concerted effort to reach out to businesses in the neighborhood,” said Decker.

Last year, attendance at all of the events and screenings was estimated to be about 150,000. About 90,000 meals, 78,000 cab rides and 3,600 room nights in hotels south of Canal St. were connected to the festival.

De Niro explained why he got involved at a City Hall announcement event a few months ago. “This neighborhood is my home,” he said. “I’m committed to it.”

Decker, personally, is most-excited about the outdoor sing-along to “Grease” on Pier 25 on May 10. She said even if John Travolta doesn’t show up (festival organizers say he won’t), it will still be a lot of fun to sing to one of her favorites with the rest of the crowd. A Travolta appearance was not a far-fetched expectation considering the number of stars that showed up last year, and the fact that many of the stars of “Diner” are expected to show up May 9 with director Barry Levinson for the pier screening. On May 8, the first night of the pier “Drive-In” movies, viewers will see “When Harry Met Sally,” since it won a film festival online poll to pick the best New York romantic movie.

The pier screenings, a Tribeca Festival first, are free, but tickets, which are available at the T.F.F. box office at 387 Greenwich St. or at J & R Music World on Park Row, are required. The movies start at 8 p.m. but organizers recommend viewers arrive at least 15 minutes ahead of time. If there is room on Pier 25, which is on the Hudson River near N. Moore St., people without tickets will be allowed to enter.

Other highlights of the festival include:

*The opening procession down Greenwich St., which will be May 6. The speeches start at 5:45 p.m. and the parade begins at 6 p.m. Organizers hope to be cleared out by 7:30 p.m. so that rush hour traffic scrambling to get to the West Side Highway, the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel and the Holland Tunnel will be able to move easier.

*The Tribeca Family Festival, which returns May 10 on Greenwich St. from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. The festival, sponsored by American Express, runs from Hubert to Duane Sts. and will include lots of events, activities and entertainment for children.

*The free MTV Rock/Comedy concert featuring Norah Jones and The Roots will be May 9 at 7 p.m. in Battery Park. Tickets are available by calling 212-846-2596.

Judy Tenzer, a spokesperson for American Express, said the firm is once again sponsoring the festival in order to help the Lower Manhattan revitalization.

“It does tend to be quiet,” she said. “There is still a great need to get people to come down here, to shop here, to eat here, and live here.”

AmEx, in addition to sponsoring the street fair, is also running free double-decker shuttle buses between the festival venues and is offering its cardholders added discounts and bonus points for shopping and eating in places below Canal St.

The buses will run until 10 p.m. and stop at Broadway and Barclay St., Church and Chambers Sts., Chambers St. and West Broadway, Chambers and Greenwich Sts., Vesey St. between West St. and North End Ave. (near the UA Battery Park/Embassy Suites). Going eastbound, it will stop at Murray St. between North End Ave. and West St., Chambers and Greenwich Sts., Chambers St. and West Broadway, Chambers St. between Church St. and Broadway and Broadway at Warren St.

The main goal is to help Downtown, where AmEx has about 4,000 employees, said Tenzer.

“The Family Festival is a perfect example,” Tenzer said. “It’s free of charge, it’s all day, and it’s on a great street.”

Decker said the expansion of the children’s programs is a welcome addition. “There are more kids in Tribeca, which I don’t think they realized last year,” said Decker.

The festival did cause some problems in the neighborhood for some last year. Doug Sterner, president of the Friends of Greenwich St., said the group’s sidewalk trees were damaged at the Family Festival and he hopes organizers fulfill promises to protect the trees this year with fencing and volunteer watchers.

John Scott, who lives in Independence Plaza on Greenwich St., said motorists have not been giving enough advanced notice about the building’s garage being closed for the street fair. “The tenants are going to be severely impacted by this,” he said.

But many of the businesses say the festival is a big help. Ralph Cummings, the longtime chef at Ivy’s Bistro, said he shortens the menu during the Family Festival in order to cook fast enough to feed everyone.

“I’m hoping to check out a few films this year,” Cummings said, “but I don’t know if I’ll have the time.”


Downtown Express is published by
Community Media LLC.

Downtown Express | 487 Greenwich St., Suite 6A | New York, NY 10013

Phone: 212.242.6162 | Fax: 212.229.2970


Written permission of the publisher must be obtainedbefore any of the contents of this newspaper, in whole or in part, can be reproduced or redistributed.