Queens is the new Hollywood

Photo courtesy of CBS

Film crews unloaded crates of props and racks of costumes from the enormous trucks lining 35th Street next to Kaufman Astoria Studios. Neon notices posted on parking signs up and down both sides of the thoroughfare alerted residents that “Nurse Jackie,” the Showtime series starring Edie Falco, would be filming on that street over the next few days.

Western Queens, home to several of the city’s biggest film studios, has experienced an upswing in recent on-location shoots around the neighborhood, appearing as the backdrop for hit shows like “30 Rock,” “Gossip Girl” and “Person of Interest.” But consumed parking spots and increased traffic have locals and politicians questioning whether or not Hollywood’s existence in western Queens is symbiotic or parasitic.

Councilmember Peter Vallone said he became skeptical of the film industry’s presence after spotting illegitimate “No Parking” signs along both sides of 31st Street and on 23rd Avenue from 33rd Street to 28th Street, one of the most congested business areas in Queens. Vallone claimed the signs, which traced back to a Netflix original production called “Orange is the New Black,” were posted outside of the time designated to them by the Mayor’s Office of Film.

Vallone, while interested in helping to facilitate the movie and television industry, is adamant that crews respect the locals who call their on-and-off sets “home.”

“This is an industry that we like and want to cooperate with as much as possible,” said Vallone. “We want to make sure when they film in our neighborhood, they cause as little aggravation as possible for neighbors and business owners.”

According to Mayor’s Office of Film spokesperson Marybeth Ihle, the entertainment production industry employs over 130,000 New Yorkers and contributes $7.1 billion to the city’s economy each year.

“Whenever you see a film crew on your block, whether it’s the camera operator, costume designer or caterer, you’re really seeing your fellow New Yorkers hard at work,” said Ihle.

Production levels are on the rise throughout New York City, according to Ihle. At least 24 prime time television series are filming their current seasons in the Big Apple. Ihle said the Office of Film seeks to find a balance between the needs of the industry and those of the community.

According to Ihle, filming locations are determined by scouts who work with the director and producers to determine and secure the best location based on the needs of the script.

Western Queens isn’t the only film-worthy destination in the borough. Douglas Manor, a historic section of Douglaston regarded for its isolation and the unique architecture of its homes, has provided the scenery for countless movies and television shows, including CBS’s “Blue Bloods” and NBC’s “Person of Interest” and the recent Nicole Kidman art-house flick, “Rabbit Hole.” Currently, the “Sex and the City” prequel, called “The Carrie Diaries” is filming in Douglas Manor.

A neighborhood representative of Douglas Manor said the community is split between those who don’t mind sharing their streets with film crews and those who do. While filming locations are chosen by the city and not Douglas Manor residents, the representative said local officials attempt to soften the impact the industry has on their neighborhood.

“We try to make it so their presence isn’t overwhelming to the community,” said the representative. “We appreciate them working with us and listening to the needs of the community and reaching out to us.”

Mira Castillo, a manager at Café Bar on 36th Street in Astoria said many daytime patrons at her restaurant are studio employees on their lunch break and the film industry’s presence in the neighborhood boosts business.

“A lot of our day business relies on their business,” said Castillo.

But, it’s not just in-house patrons who are getting a midday meal from Café Bar. Castillo said her restaurant delivers daily to nearby Silvercup Studio.

“[The film industry’s presence] is a good thing,” said Castillo. “It feels like we’re a part of their process and helping get their jobs done.”

Recently, Café Bar was asked by a film company if scenes for a new television show could be shot inside their restaurant. Castillo said they had yet to make a final decision.

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