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Lights out for kid flicks in Willamsburg

Lights out for kid flicks in Willamsburg
A flea in their side: East River State Park neighbor Jonathan Burkan said the state should be more willing to work with smaller organizations to bring programming to Williamsburg residents, rather than pushing them away with large events like Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg.
Photo by Brent Osborne

A volunteer organization that screened movies for kids every summer since 2005 at East River State Park in Williamsburg is drawing the curtain on its event, claiming it is fed up with working with the state agency that refuses to help it put on the show.

Susan Anderson of Town Square Inc., a volunteer group that hosted free screenings of films such as “Wall-E,” “Ice Age,” and “Toy Story 3” on the waterfront, said her group is dimming the lights because the state, which she claims is extremely friendly to for-profit groups that use the park, refuses to chip in.

“We raised all the money and did it for free,” said Anderson. “It’s a shame that the state is willing to allow the Smorgasburg and the Brooklyn Flea while making it so difficult for small groups to work with them.”

Since 2008, each July and August, Town Square presented six weeks of movies in East River State Park. Held Thursday nights, each show was kicked off by live children’s music until it was dark enough to start the film.

Anderson declined to go into specific details, but all organizations putting on events in the park are required to bankroll their own security and cleanup, and provide all the necessary equipment. For a small volunteer organization, that can get pricey, forcing some to find ways to finance the events without have to charge for tickets at the gate. Brooklyn Bridge Park’s “Movies With a View,” for instance, has corporate sponsorship that helps foot the bill.

Anderson said the children’s movies typically attracted about 1,000 viewers.

Some neighbors wondered why the state couldn’t help the group put on its show by using some of the $3,000 a week rental fee it collects from Smorgasburg and Brooklyn Flea.

“They allowed this huge flea market to come in every weekend for seven months but they’re not willing to spend a few thousand dollars to get children’s movies,” said Jonathan Burkan. “They are pushing away a woman from the community who has been doing something for the kids for years while keeping the huge corporations who are only here to make money.”

But the state said it is working on getting other films in the park, as well as a staff-run children’s activity series that would include lawn bowling, giant chess and basketball.

Town Square currently runs the Go Green! Greenpoint festival and is also working on building a science and art museum somewhere on the Williamsburg or Greenpoint waterfront.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.

No park for young children: Neighbor Jonathan Burkan, here with his 4-year-old daughter Laura, says that by getting rid of kids’ movies and not upgrading playground equipment, the East River State Park has become increasingly inhospitable to children.
Photo by Brent Osborne

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