Lights, camera, parking woes

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Business owners along Metropolitan Avenue are fed up with film crews occupying parking spots that could be used by paying customers, but the production teams probably will have a recurring role on the commercial strip.

“You see a reduction in business,” said Dee Arabian, owner of Dee’s Brick Oven Pizza, at 107-23 Metropolitan Ave. “They put ‘no parking’ signs out 48 hours in advance. People are confused with the different dates and time.”

The crews often put out orange cones even before the city-issued parking moratorium goes into effect, he said. Business owners like Arabian often call the number listed on the fliers, but end up moving the cones themselves.

On Tuesday, Aug. 9, signs were posted along the avenue that forbade parking after 10 p.m. Wednesday because crews would be filming on Thursday.

The production crews have had trailers parked along Metropolitan Avenue between Union Turnpike and Woodhaven Boulevard for several film shoots over the last five months for shows including “Damages,” a CBS drama based around the casework of a gritty lawyer, and “Blue Bloods,” a cop drama shot on location in New York City.

“Blue Bloods” has repeatedly filmed in Forest Hills, Arabian said, and for a logical reason. The crew uses the interior of a house on Loubet Street, which runs parallel to Metropolitan Avenue for about six blocks, as the home of a main character, according to a member of the crew.

“To me, that means I’m totally screwed,” Arabian said.

Metropolitan Avenue is not heavily traversed by walking window-shoppers, he said. Instead, customers drive in and park their cars to visit the stores.

“We solely rely on those parking meters,” he said. “This is not a retail area.”

Norman Lisogorsky owns Metro Pharmacy II, at 103-11 Metropolitan Ave., and said that the lack of parking spots harms his business as well, since many of his customers are ill and need to pick up medication.

“They are old, in pain or sometimes handicapped,” he said. “[The production company] has these guys who wave people on and don’t allow paying customers to park or run in.”

Lisogorsky would like to see the crews use side streets for parking or at least free up a few spaces so residents could pick up their medication.

Arabian said he would like more advance notice, so he could inform his customers through an extensive e-mail chain he maintains.

In addition, he said he would hire valet parking for the day if he knew a film crew was coming.

But Marybeth Ihle, spokeswoman for the city Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting, said it is hard to predict when crews will film since they only have to apply for a permit a few days or a week in advance.

Her office has not received any complaints about the Forest Hills location, she said, and only five shoots have taken place since the beginning of the year.

“The entertainment production industry employs over 100,000 New Yorkers and contributes more than $5 billion to the city’s economy each year,” she said. “Every effort is made by the Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting to balance the needs of the community with the needs of productions.”

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Updated 11:30 am, October 12, 2011
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