The following is the 4th in a series on “Landlords, Eviction and Gentrification:” Making a Killing in Clinton Hill
By Guest blogger Karen Malpede
There’s a saying in Show Biz that “One can make a killing but not a living in the theater.”
The same is true in our ever-gentrifying neighborhood, where if you’ve got money to invest you can make a whole lot more but if you’ve got a paycheck, you can no longer afford the rent.
Across the street from the house from which I am currently being evicted after nearly 24 years (so that its banker-owner can sell it for big bucks) are two twin five storey brownstones. Empty for years, they have in the past five been renovated from top to bottom: new copper roofs, new brownstone carvings, and on one the new addition of a large glass domed kitchen.
Both are occupied by single families. 280 Washington Ave, occupied by a husband and wife team who wish to remain anonymous, is being run as a high-end business. It is a “legal” AirBnB, says its owner, who is free to rent its rooms to European visitors who wish to have the real Brooklyn experience (the “G” train, among others). Cabs stop almost daily discharging and picking up the tourists with their suitcases.
280 Washington has also become the location of so many television and film shoots that neighbors have recently rebelled. According to an email from its anonymous-remaining owner, “S
ome neighbors have successfully had the block put on the mayor’s ‘Hot Spot’ list which means that film crews cannot get the necessary parking permits to shoot.”
This comes after a slew of shoots for commercials, with fake snow, and films this fall at the house, and it comes in time to block the scheduled remaining shoot of a show in progress. Unable to park for blocks in a neighborhood where parking is at a premium and some people’s lives revolve around alternate side day and time restrictions, neighbors began to feel inconvenienced—as in having to park 13 blocks away and haul your groceries and tired children home at night.
It’s not just the parking (I no longer have a car after been rammed from behind by a double-decker tour bus last July); it’s rage at having one’s now unaffordable, beloved neighborhood turned into a film industry, with huge trailers blasting fumes from the air-conditioning and the humming motors, and gangs of techies obstructing the streets, for the benefit of one wealthy family.
Soon, 280, retrofitted in a mix of faux-Victorian and modern, with the requisite crystal chandeliers in the three connecting downstairs parlors, will be such a familiar fixture on screens across the nation, that the location scouts may tire of the place.
On the ad for the AirBnB, and 280 has a five star rating and evidently serves splendid breakfasts, in case your friends from Europe need a nice place to call home away from home ($220-$700 a day with no discount for extended stays) is also this note: “ALL ROOMS are available for film or print shoots. Rate $4,500 – $15,000 a day. We are also open to trading for fine art.”
When I first moved to Clinton Hill in 1991, there were rumors that the Graham Home for Old Ladies, then empty, now a fancy condo, had just recently been a notorious whore house for Brooklyn pols. So, I suppose we are no strangers to industry here. But, still, this relentless marketing of a single location for the profit of a single family in a neighborhood that was once affordable and friendly, rubs a lot of long-time residents the wrong way.
During the first part of the now on-hold film shoot, I stopped to speak with Jamaican man who was paid by the film company to guard the empty streets: “A lot of people are complaining,” he said. “In ten years, they’ll get tired of this neighborhood and go away.”
The traffic guard whom I greet each morning on the way to Fort Green Park said, “They give nothing back to the neighborhood. Not even a bagel or books for the kids.”
I am being ungrateful, of course, as my theater is (or was) about to receive a check (we’ve been told) for $500, part of a give-away brokered by the film company and the anonymous 280 owners, to worthy neighborhood not-for-profits. When I mentioned that sum to two other of the men employed to guard the streets so that no one who lives here can park there, they replied, “that’s not real money.”
“It’s a lot of money to us,” the location scout told me by phone when I called to complain about the shoot and mentioned I wasn’t to be bought off by $500. To quote Langston Hughes, I suppose we worthy neighborhood non-profits (I’ve asked for the entire list of beneficiaries but it has not as of yet been forthcoming) should offer our humble thanks for these “crumbs from the table of joy.”
However, I just heard, “if the shoot is canceled, we won’t be able to give the grants we had promised.” Not even a crumb.
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