In My Own Words

In My Own Words BC 001More than 180 small businesses in the Graham Avenue Business Improvement District in Williamsburg question why the city continues to sanction and encourage street shoots by the film industry without considering its financial burden on small retail districts.

Street parking is cut off during these shoots which prevents shoppers from shopping and results in major revenue losses for local businesses.

The city claims it is trying to help small businesses do well, but its action or inaction in this case, tells a different story. Small and large retail districts are feeling the brunt of the city’s generous street sales and are given few options for change.

In February, five blocks of the Graham Avenue BID went into lock down when film crews and trucks took over the retail district with little or no warning.

As outrageous as this was, the street parking was also shut down the day before the crews or trucks arrived in anticipation of the actual filming! So for one actual film shoot…two full business days were lost by our stores with little or no compensation. A practice that needs to be changed!

To make matters worse, this filming was done a week after a major blizzard which also impacted on local sales. Now we can’t change Mother Nature, but we can urge the city to re-evaluate its aggressive push to make retail districts a Hollywood option.

Last year, some strides were made when the city agreed to stop some film shoots during the holiday season…the time when most stores gage their ability to remain in business. This was a small olive branch, but much more needs to be done.

We’d like the city to consider the following before pocketing the generous fees they so proudly collect:

  • Reimburse affected stores for the losses they absorb or offer them tax credits to make up for lost sale days. This would also help small stores pay for the high rental fees they now face— rents driven up by increased property taxes.

Despite what the city claims, film crews do not bring added business into the districts they take over. They operate in their own insulated communities on our local streets. No amount of small purchases that they may make can equal a full lost business day.

If our retail district is so appealing, why not have the production provide some real advertising space where the piece is aired promoting shopping in the district where the movie/TV series has been filmed. And maybe a little thank you for putting up with them! Could these multi-billion productions really not afford this?

Someone needs to be a voice for small business districts being hurt by this growing intrusion. The film industry and the city may prosper from these location sell outs, but while they prosper our local retail sites are dying. Can the city afford to lose our local stores and the jobs and tax revenues they provide?

We ask the city to do the math and provide a fair playing field…but so far, that has not happened.

Author: Lori Ann Doyon

Managing editor, head writer, and lead photographer of Greenline | North Brooklyn News since October 2014. Resident of Williamsburg, Brooklyn since 1990.

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