Thursday, May 26, 2016

"Stop Eminent Domain from Closing our Studio!": Eastern Effects Asks Community For Help In Fighting City's Plan To Seize 270 Nevins Street

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Eastern Effect's Movie and TV studios at 270 Nevins Street, Gowanus
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Philip Warren and Scott Levy of  Eastern Effects at  Tuesday's Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group meeting.
As part of the Gowanus Canal Superfund clean-up, the City of New York and EPA have negotiated a
proposed agreement to situate one of the two retention tanks mandated in the Record of Decision at the head of the Canal rather than at the EPA suggested site which is under the pool in Thomas Greene Park.

The City's plan relies on the taking of two privately owned sites, 234 Butler Street and 242 Nevins Street, by eminent domain. A third site, 270 Nevins Street will most likely also be seized by the City, which plans to use it for staging purposes during the construction project.

This would displace Eastern Effects, a successful film and television studio, where many commercials, movies and television shows like  FX's "The Americans" are filmed.

Eastern Effects' founder and president Scott Levy and the studio's general manager Philip Warren attended last Tuesday's Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group's general meeting to make sure the community knew that the closing would mean a 50% loss of business and therefore real hardship. It would also represent  a loss of about 200 union jobs during filming and 31 full-time jobs.
In addition, the company contributes, by their estimate, approximately four million dollars ($4,000,000) per year to the local economy.

Levy argued that it makes little sense for the City to seize the site for temporary use, when Eastern Effects has plowed millions into the building to meet all stage 2 requirements and can support New York City's booming film and movie industry.
"I have invested millions of dollars and have spent three of the most grueling years of my life building this studio," Levy told members of the CAG.  "We did everything we needed to do."
He talked about receives calls every day for studio space, but has to turn production companies down because his are fully booked. Apparently, 46 television productions are currently filming in New York City and are competing for space.
The City of New York has recently notified Eastern Effect that it would be forced to cease operations at 270 Nevins Street.   "The City did not come to us to talk about any of this,' Levy said.  "It was news to us and was announced as 'an agreement between the EPA and the City'.  We were shocked and upset because no one came to us. Only one person from the City came to do a walk through of the building. So it was time for us to do something to protect ourselves."

Eastern Effects is asking the community's help in saving the 270 Nevis Street building, their studios, their investment and local jobs.
"We have no issue with the building of the tank. We understand that the tank is part of the clean-up that is needed for the City and for this local area," said Levy. "We are not here to debate that, but we think we are an afterthought when it comes to where to put a staging site to support that tank."
Rather, Levy makes the point that there are alternatives to the City's proposed plan. Currently, there are several building  located directly adjacent to the lots the City plans to seize by eminent domain, which are currently empty and/or for sale.
That includes 537 Sackett Street, which is located directly across the street from Eastern Effects and is currently empty.

Levy and Warren provided the community with the map pictured above, which shows some alternative sites that could be used by the City.
Eastern Effects also issued the following statement:

Keep Jobs in Gowanus – Stop Eminent Domain from Closing our Studio!
Background:
Eastern Effects, Inc. a film and television production studio adjacent to the Gowanus Canal, was recently notified by the City that it would be forced to cease operations and close in order for the property to be used as a temporary staging area for the construction of two combined sewage overflow (CSO) tanks required to clean up the canal. The Gowanus Canal was designated as a Superfund site by the EPA in 2010.

Eastern Effects leases property at 270 Nevins Street (between Sackett and Degraw Street). The studio is in the 5th year of a 20-year lease. The studio hosts over 230 well-paying jobs, utilizes local vendors, and is the setting for the hit television series The Americans.

There are underutilized and vacant properties surrounding the area that are viable alternatives for this temporary staging location. We propose that the City evaluate such sites, saving the studio from closure and maintaining New York City’s position as a leader in the film and television production industry.

Reasons to Support an Alternate Staging Site:
*Eastern Effects invested over $5 million and three years of exhaustive work in the building at 270 Nevins Street to create a state-of-the-art facility that meets the City’s stringent Level 2 stage requirements to accommodate large scale shows —the type of soundstage that productions are actively seeking in New York City. This is the company’s Flagship Studio.

*Eastern Effects is committed to Brooklyn: all five of the company’s buildings are located in the borough—four buildings are located in Gowanus and one building is currently under construction in East New York.

*Since 2009, Eastern Effects has partnered with Brooklyn Workforce Initiative to provide training and job opportunities in the film industry through the Made in NY PA Training Program. Graduates of the program are currently working on the set of The Americans. Eastern Effects also hires graduates of BWI’s CDL driver training, Red Hook on the Road.

*The site supports over 230 jobs, most of which are union. These union employees are represented by: IATSE Locals 600, 5, 817, 700, 161, 829, 764, 798, WGA, DGA, and SAG/AFTRA. Eastern Effects has 31 direct full-time employees, 3 part-time employees, and is planning an expansion this summer.

*Soundstages are unique facilities that require large, open floor plates, high ceilings, and costly specialized infrastructure. There are no viable alternatives to move the stage in Gowanus. The loss of the Flagship Studio will impact Eastern Effects’ nearby production offices, editing suites, writer’s offices, and support spaces.

*The film and television industry wants to be in New York City. A 2015 report showed that the industry brings $8.7 billion into the local economy, with 46 series produced in the five boroughs during the 2014-2015 season. The spending on production creates a ripple effect in the city’s economy, indirectly supporting an additional 20,000 full-time jobs.

*Production companies currently report difficulty in finding adequate studio space in New York City. If they cannot find space, these productions will turn to other cities, costing New York State jobs and valuable tax revenue.


Meanwhile, our elected officials already threw their support behind the agreement between EPA and the City Of New York, in which the City proposes the taking by eminent domain of 234 Butler Street, 242 Nevins Street, as well as 270 Nevins Street.
New York City Council Member Brad Lander, New York City Council Member Stephen Levin, Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams, and New York State Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon, issued a statement "supportive of the approach described in the proposed agreement"

New York City has already signed the agreement, but the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group has asked the EPA for a public comment period before the Federal Government signs it.
Members of the community can send their own comments on the agreement and I strongly encourage you to do so. Please mail to :

Walter Mugdan,
U.S. EPA Superfund Director 290 Broadway, Floor 19, New York, N.Y., 10007 mugdan
or email to : mugdan.walter@epa.gov

To read the agreement between the EPA and New York City, please visit:
https://semspub.epa.gov/work/02/395808.pdf

Click here to write a letter of support for Eastern Effects



16 comments:

Becky said...

Katia, I think you have a type in the email address for submitting comments. It should be
mugdan.walter@epa.gov

Katia said...

Thanks so much for the edit. Will correct right now.

Becky said...

This is the email I just sent. I have to break it into two parts as it's exceeding the character limit for Blogger's commenting allowance.

Gowanus Canal: Comment on on Proposed Settlement Agreement for Siting, Design and Site Prep for RH-034 CSO Retention Tank

Dear Mr. Mugdan,

Something stinks in Gowanus – and I'm not talking about the canal.

The proposed use of eminent domain for the siting of the necessary retention tanks could not possibly be a worse decision, designed to set up the project for complete failure.

Why, when there are multiple other viable options, all less expensive and more time-efficient than the eminent domain "solution," has this agreement been allowed to go forward? Is this a deliberate sabotage? Does someone have photographs of EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck with a goat? I begin to think so.

I have lived in the area for over 14 years, supported the Superfund designation and have been following the proceedings closely, looking forward to a day when we can safely enjoy the clean canal waterway the neighborhood deserves, and has worked so hard to attain.

When the Superfund designation finally went through, over the strenuous objections and all the dirty tricks NYC could throw at the process in an effort to weasel out of any responsibility, we were so relieved. We were prepared to live through the inconvenience of the cleanup work that we knew would need to be done, and realistically would take years to complete. The result would be worth it.

But before we've even started, the process has left the community stripped of agency and trust. We feel angered and betrayed as the people and government agents supposed to be advocating for us, have caved to pressure and given us this completely unworkable plan.

The obvious site for the retention tanks is the Thomas Greene Park. The "Save the Park" petition going around has thrown up a smokescreen around the real issues of this space.

The Park sits on polluted soil and requires remediation in order to be safe – a project which could be folded into the Superfund cleanup, saving time and money. The NYC Parks Department has called the Park "underutilized" as it is, and at present the pool is only open two months out of the year. Impact on the community would therefore be minimized. I believe this option WOULD in fact be saving the Park. It's currently oozing liquid coal tar, for goodness sake! We should be jumping at this opportunity to get it remediated and clean for public use!

This win-win scenario has been rejected.

Becky said...

[Part 2]

As an alternative, local developer Alloy has taken the unprecedented step of offering to donate a nearby parcel to City expressly for siting of the retention tanks, in return for certain considerations given to their proposed new office building project in the area.
I understand this solution would also result in additional parkland at the end of the project.

This, too, has been rejected with no explanation.

Eastern Effects at 242 Nevins Street, one of the properties under eminent domain threat by the City, has just put out a very moving letter outlining the devastation this thuggish move would have on their thriving local business and their investment in the area, impacting the local economy significantly. This is a thriving local business that our elected officials are supposed to be trying to protect!

As a well-known and successful film/TV production company, ejecting Easter Effects would be mud in the City's eye and terrible PR if nothing else. NYC likes to describe itself as supportive to the film and TV industry; hard to believe at this point.

Eastern Effects included an overhead diagram showing three alternate sites nearby that would be better choices for the siting of the retention tanks. I have yet to hear any reasoning for why these sites have not been considered viable options.

Please, do not bow to the crooked demands of one of the main responsible parties for the polluted state of the canal in the first place, to the great detriment of the community you are supposedly trying to improve. Don't waste our time, our money, and our goodwill on a process that purports to be transparent, yet so blatantly rejects community input for obvious selfish gain. Be the force for good that we believed you to be, the reason why we expended so much energy and overcame so many seemingly impossible obstacles to bring our polluted canal to national attention.

Do the right thing and reject this agreement.

Thank you,

Becky X

Katia said...

Excellent, Becky. Thanks for taking the time to write a comment to EPA. I sent my comment in on Tuesday.
Will post it tomorrow. Would you mind if I add yours to the post so that more people will be able to read it?

Becky said...

Of course, whatever you want to do!

Katia said...

Thank you so much, Becky.
I will put it up with mine and another from a neighborhood group tomorrow.

My I suggest you send your comment to the head of EPA in Washington? the e-mail address is : Mccarthy.Gina@epa.go

Becky said...

Mccarthy.Gina@epa.go bounces back as undeliverable. Should it be .gov?

Katia said...

Yes, sorry. I must have dropped the v during cuting and pasting.

Becky said...

Okay, I have sent it. Hope it goes somewhere.

Anonymous said...

Even if they stayed producers aren't going to enjoy the construction, dirt, road blocks and whatever else will come with the tanks. Cut your losses and move to Long Island City where all the other studios are.

Anonymous said...

I wish Preet Bharara will add the Gowanus shenanigans onto his investigation list starting with the Toll Brothers rezoning. This agreement smells. Brad Lander and Steve Levin should have the courtesy to meet with their constituents about this. How can they justify the loss of jobs and why would anyone business want to invest in Gowanus if ebd result is eminent domain.

Rob said...

I signed one of the letters. It would be a shame if they got kicked out especially if there is space completely unused right next to them.

A neighbor said...

@7:33 cut 5 million dollars in losses? That's a lot to lose for any business. And they are a vibrant asset to our community, providing employment and as well as using services in the community. We need to provide security for industry that wants to invest, not have the sword of eminent domain looming. Gowanus is one of the last industrial neighborhoods in NYC. Industry is thriving and needs our support. There are other sites that can be used for staging.

CG Since before St. Agnes said...

ANY Updates on this??

Katia said...

I am afraid not. I'll post any info that comes my way.