Councilman Bob Holden (D-Middle Village) is not a movie or TV director but he would like to yell “Cut” when it comes to filming during the holiday season in Middle Village and Maspeth.
“The straw that broke the camel’s back here was Monday and Tuesday on Metropolitan Avenue,” Holden told the Chronicle. “They took over the whole thing.”
He couldn’t believe the timing of the shooting would be around the holidays.
“That shows you that the city is really insensitive and doesn’t care about small business,” Holden said. “That’s a good barometer as to how they are operating this whole industry. The industry is just doing as they please. They’re having their way with our small business districts.”
Holden says 90 percent of the shopping district was shut down for two whole days during the week before Christmas and he is concerned about the small businesses.
“Some of them are really hurting,” Holden said. “They’re kind of teetering on the edge because of all the rules and regulations the city throws at them from the signage violations to sanitation to buildings issues that this is just one more. But this one is outrageous.”
He added, “It’s a big hit on a small business to lose that at the most lucrative time.”
The councilman said he would like to see a moratorium on shooting for at least two weeks before Christmas.
“Don’t tell me they couldn’t have shot this a few days from now,” said Holden, who also called the $300 fee to shoot “ridiculous.”
He said compaints about filming include only receiving two days notice, massive trailers obstructing views of the stores, the crew taking up too many parking spaces and bringing in their own catering instead of buying from area businesses.
“What do the local stores get out of it? A big smile and a pat on the back and a thank you from the Mayor’s Office,” Holden said. “Not even that. They get nothing. They get lip service.”
He spoke to Julie Manin, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, but wasn’t happy wth her explanation that it’s a “$9 billion industry.”
“She really was insensitive to this,” Holden said.
According to Holden, during one day of shooting, there were cones by Michaels Funeral Home that had not been used and were just left. Eventually the cones were removed and opened up to parking.
“The Mayor’s Office starts telling me, ‘Oh, we had problems with relocating some of their vehicles because of alternate side of the street parking.’ I said, ‘Now I know you guys are really giving me talking points and making stuff up as you go along because we have no alternate side of the street parking over there,’” Holden said.
A MOME spokesperson said, “The Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment works hard to monitor production levels in all neighborhoods and to ensure that a production’s parking footprint is not larger than needed. That being said, the benefits of productions filming in the City are tremendous. Filming provides more than 130,000 full-time and steady well-paying jobs, brings $9 billion to the economy and supports local businesses.”
The spokesperson added that permits citywide are down 7 percent since 2015 and the filming permits in Queens have decreased 18 percent. There are currently 850 blocks on a moratorium list and they are able to add additional blocks if there are community concerns.
“There has been only one 311 complaint about filming from Councilmember Holden’s office,” the spokesperson said. “Citywide, complaints about filming are about .001 percent of all 311 calls.”
Showtime’s “Billions” filmed in Middle Village for a couple of days. “‘Billions’ employs 4,866 New Yorkers,” the spokesperson said. “In the two days they spent in Middle Village, they spent over $35,000 in location fees to local businesses and non-profit organizations including a local pizzeria where they shot and nearby church they used as a holding location.”
There is the also the issue of notifying those who might be impacted.
“When we issue a permit to a production, notification is simultaneously sent to the local Councilmember, Community Board and Borough President’s office,” the spokesperson said. “MOME requires productions themselves to notify any local businesses, merchant associations, civic groups and residents who may be impacted.”
But Holden says that didn’t happen.
According to the councilman, neither Maspeth Chamber of Commerce President David Daraio nor Middle Village Chamber of Commerce President Sal Crifasi were notified.
Holden is frustrated because people from the Mayor’s Office, “don’t even go down there and look at what’s going on.”
He says he has contacted the chair of the Small Business Committee in the Council to have hearings about the production shooting a week before Christmas.
The main issue is issuing permits but Holden added that parking is a side issue.
“In all of my district, I have no municipal parking and other Council people do,” he said. “I’m fighting to try to get that. So if you do shut down some street parking, then I do have a backup.” He added that Metropolitan, Myrtle and Grand avenues need municipal parking.
Holden says impacted businesses can contact with him with numbers of how much money they lost.
“I’m going to go to the film companies and to the Mayor’s Office and say these people need to be reimbursed,” he said.