Volume 20 Issue 13 | August 10 - 16, 2007

Downtown Express photo by Clayton Patterson

A car was ablaze on Orchard St. on July 31, not by accident, but for a movie shoot.

A movie shoot had license to burn on Orchard St.

By Lucas Mann

On the night of Tues., July 31, pandemonium broke out on Orchard St. at the corner of Stanton. Rubble covered a couple of parked cars and another car was billowing smoke after being engulfed in flames. Cut!

The commotion was actually from the shoot of an action movie being filmed on the block. Rebecca Moore, who lives on Orchard St., was not amused.

“My first thought was that my air conditioner had caught on fire,” she said. “I turned it off, but the smoke and the fumes were alarming. My throat was burning.”

Looking out her window and seeing the film crew surrounding the burning car may have diminished her fears, but not her annoyance. She said police on the scene assured her that it was a nontoxic fire, but that later a police officer assigned to the film shoot told her that, “Something that was plastic or rubber had been left in the car and that had caused the incredible smoke and fumes.” Moore was also quick to point out that, in her mind, a car with paint and rubber tires produced toxic fumes, anyway.

Michael Ragolia, at City Councilmember Alan Gerson’s office, however, said the fire wasn’t as big a deal for other residents.

It doesn’t seem that anyone has had any complaints about the shoot,” he said. “I got in touch with Community Board 3 and they didn’t receive any complaints either. Susan Stetzer [C.B. 3 district manager] spoke with the captain of the Seventh Precinct, who said that everything on the shoot went smoothly, except for maybe a little more traffic than usual.”

Sal Bartolomeo, who owns Rosario’s Pizza, which is on the block where the shoot occurred, also said that the fire was not a problem.

“They put some sort of canvas up along my store, so I didn’t really notice the smoke,” he said. “It seemed like a lot of people had fun watching.”

Not surprisingly, though, the incident did find its way onto a local blog,, where an outraged poster wrote of being shocked and frightened by the scene and said, “[T]he Lower East Side smells like 9/11 now!”

Eve MacKnight, at the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting, said that the film shoot, smoke and all, should not have come as a surprise.

“Yes, we gave out a permit for the shoot,” MacKnight said. “We sent out notification to Community Board 3, to City Council District 1 and to the Seventh Precinct, as well as some local businesses. The location manager also sent out two ‘resident letters’ informing neighbors, and they were put up on signposts. They specifically mentioned that there would be a car on fire.”

The notifications were sent out July 25, six days before the shoot.

MacKnight went on to say that the fire itself was not a problem.

“There was professional surveillance on site,” she said. “And there wasn’t an actual explosion, it was just briefly set on fire.”

MacKnight said she believed the filming was for a movie called “Chocolate Outrage.”

You can flavor Moore’s outrage any way you like, she is still upset with the smoke.

Moore emphasized that she had no problem with films being shot in New York, but said, “It makes me incredibly angry that the city is cracking down, passing rules that will make it difficult for tiny groups of people filming or photographing with one tripod, and yet, letting this sort of thing go on as if it is somehow O.K.”

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