Hooray for Hollywood!
Civic groups around Brownstone Brooklyn have quietly found a way to cash in on the bothersome film crews that regularly turn their picturesque rowhouse-lined streets into movie lots: soliciting the silver-screen productions for donations.
Many residents would still rather see producers find another neighborhood to set their latest smash hit in, one local leader acknowledges, but the city has no plans to limit the number of permits it hands out anytime soon, so the contributions are one of the few ways communities can get something out of the situation beyond pinching bagels from the craft services table, he said.
“If a company is willing to make a donation that sustains the Brooklyn Heights Association’s advocacy across a broad range of issues, then the community can benefit in that way,” said Peter Bray, the group’s president.
Along with the Brooklyn Heights Association, both the Cobble Hill Association and Park Slope Civic Council request donations from local productions — although many of the people involved were wary of discussing the details and all refused to say which television shows and movies had coughed up cash.
Between 2014 and 2016, the city issued 888 film permits in the Community Board 6 area alone — that includes Cobble Hill and Park Slope, but not Brooklyn Heights — according to the city.
Bray was willing to reveal that the donations are generally between a few hundred dollars and around $1,000, depending on the size and scope of the production — which could be anything from short photo shoots on the Promenade to filming that goes on for days and spans numerous city blocks.
Sometimes the pledges come with a caveat that they must be used for a specific project or amenity — such as the Brooklyn Heights Association’s tree fund — but many simply go into the organizations’ coffers, he said.
For the Park Slope Civic Council, that means additional funding for scholarships, cleanups, the annual Halloween parade, and pro-bono legal support for residents, along with the group’s prolific advocacy to expand the neighborhood historic district, according to its head honcho.
“We have very low overhead, so virtually all the money is distributed to our account for future projects,” said president Judith Lief.
But even with the donations, Bray says the production companies’ reputations in the area remain “overwhelmingly negative.”
Crews are notorious for parking production vehicles in designated fire zones, towing cars with handicapped parking stickers, and treating locals with contempt, he said.
“I have not received a single phone call where someone says ‘thank goodness this shoot is taking place in Brooklyn Heights,’ ” he said.
Bray says his organization has asked the city to limit the amount of permits it distributes in the neighborhood, but it has fallen on deaf ears. So the best the group can do is contact incoming production companies to request that they respect local streets and residents — and consider making a donation to the local civic group while they’re at it.