Monday, December 22, 2008

RIOC President Threatens RIRA Delegate With Arrest For Soliciting Funds From Roosevelt Island Film Shoot

Image of man behind Jail Bars from legal juice

Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) officers, on behalf of RIRA, have often asked for small voluntary contributions from film crews shooting movies on Roosevelt Island. Some producers react positively and others don't. Similar donations are sought by neighborhood groups from movie productions throughout New York City. For example, the Greenwich Village Block Association (GVBA) keeps a Movie Crew Scorecard that rates the impact of movie, television and commercial productions in their neighborhood. According to GVBA:
Greenwich Village serves as location for countless movie, television, and commercial film shoots. While these shoots are sometimes annoying (lights, vehicles, noise etc.), many companies are minimally disruptive & contribute to block associations which are primaraily responsible for preserving the ambiance that lures visitors & film makers to our community.
Why is this relevant to Roosevelt Island? The reason is that RIOC President Steve Shane threatened to arrest or summons former RIRA President Matt Katz if Mr. Katz continues to seek contributions for RIRA from movie companies shooting on Roosevelt Island. Below is an email message sent from Mr. Shane threatening to arrest or summons Mr. Katz if he continues to seek such donations to RIRA.
I was dismayed to learn that earlier this week, during a film shoot on
Main Street that had been issued a permit by RIOC, you were reported to have been panhandling from the producers. Even assuming that you were attempting your efforts on behalf of the noble cause of RIRA, such activity is not to be condoned or tolerated. I know that I spoke to you directly on this subject about a year ago when a similar incident occurred.

I quote the applicable section of the administrative code below:

New York City Administrative Code -

§ 21-111 Soliciting of contributions in public.
a. It shall be unlawful for any person, organization, society,
association or corporation or their agents or representatives to solicit
money, donations of money or property, or financial assistance of any
kind upon the streets, in office or business buildings, by house to
house canvass, or in public places in the city, except upon a license
issued by the commissioner and an identification card issued by the
chairperson or district chairperson of any charitable drive and any such
regulations as hereinafter provided.

Please be advised that if there is a further repetition of this odious
behavior, our PSD is instructed to issue summonses and/or make arrests.

I am sure that you would agree that we, collectively, do not want to
discourage commerce, tourism and other such activities on the Island.
The proceeds of permits go into the general fund of RIOC which is used,
in its entirety, subject to public audit, for Roosevelt Island. Public
Purpose funds are the subject of direct application by various community groups. RIRA is directly supported by RIOC because of its role in allocating the Public Purpose funds.
I think this is just an outrageous example of bullying tactics by a non-elected public official under the purported guise of complying with NYC Administrative Code. Threatening to arrest a RIRA official for seeking donations to the Residents Association and equating such behavior with "panhandling" as well as characterizing it as "odious" is beyond ridiculous and comes close to an abuse of discretionary power by a person in the position of President of a NY State Public Benefit Corporation.

Below are examples from GVBA of movie productions during 2008 that made contributions to the local neighborhood block associations as a sign of appreciation to the community in which they shot their movie which is exactly what Mr. Katz was doing for RIRA.
  • The Unorthodox Project - Pretty good shoot. Took up parking on both sides of the street but accommodated at least one resident who asked permission to park. No noise, no complaints that I know of. Staff very efficient & easy to work with. Generous contribution to block association
  • Everybody's Fine - Robert DeNiro Film. Brief filming, no incidents, contribution to GVBA and GO Project
  • Biscuit Commercial - BBC reports— it went smoothly ... made a generous contribution for our ongoing beautification programs.
  • The Rebound - Catherine Zeta Jones flick...generous contribution to GVBA, WB11 Neighbors and Perry St. BAs, St. John's in the Village, Rattlestick Theater, & PS 41 PTA for sports support.St. Luke's BA says " They tied up parking from Sun through Tues because they got rained out on Mon. But when I contacted Matt Flanders, Asst. Locations Director, he was responsive and I now have a check for the BA.
    the report on AF Productions is: good, cooperative & generous."
  • WASP 2008 - New Woody Allen film and as always plot is hush-hush. Contribution to GVBA includes donation for Washington Square Music Festival. BBC reports "An interior shoot on Bedford They were cooperative and took few parking spaces. They made a generous contribution to the block association for our ongoing beautification programs."
  • Duplicity - Julia Roberts & Clive Owen flick. Grove St. BA had no problems with the shoot & received a generous contribution. The word from Bedford, Barrow Commerce BA is different. Residents had complaints about rude crew & failure of locations to communicate.
  • New York, I Love You - 12 filmmakers direct a short film (5 minutes) about encountering love in NYC. Includedom cast: Robin Wright Penn, Natalie Portman, Kevin Bacon, Dustin Hoffman with Village native Scarlett Johansson in her directorial debut. Generous contribution to local block associations.
Should these people from GVBA be arrested as well for doing the same thing that Mr. Katz was doing for Roosevelt Island on behalf of RIRA?

When asked to comment on this matter Mr. Shane replied:
My discussion with Mr. Katz was and is between Mr. Katz and myself. If he chooses to divulge it, that's up to him. I did furnish him with the citation of applicable law. Characterizing it as "a threat" is inappropriate. I presume that all citizens intend to be law abiding. I would hope to encourage all citizens to be aware of the law and to avoid a transgression thereof.


Anonymous said...

Mr. Shane is correct. You do not go to a film crew and ask for a donation from them. That is most unprofessional and reflects very poorly on RIRA and our island.

If your organization is approached to render a service or information, it is proper to ask for a donations. This is done before production and is between the organzation and the producers.

Walking up to a film crew
is extortion.
RIRA officers past and presents should be ashamed of themselves for these actions.

Anonymous said...

Firstly, I agree with Anonymous above. It is entirely inappropriate to walk up to the producers during a film shoot. Do it right and contact they before or afterward.

Secondly, this report needs a few more details before anybody can say that what Shane is doing is indeed bullying, etc. etc. What exactly happened? What was the outcome of the first meeting between Katz and Shane when they talked about this? How was this solicitation done? Roosevelt Islander, do YOU know the details? Is the strong opposition of yours to what Shane is doing justified?

Anonymous said...

Aside from Katz's actions, can we ask Shane if this film company did donate to RIOC?

Anonymous said...

Katz shouldn't do anything on behalf of RIRA or RIOC, period.

Anonymous said...

Who does Matt Katz think he is? He's no longer the President of RIRA and he still goes out an solicits on their behalf. I hope new President Frank Farance puts a stop to this outrageous behavior that taints the reputation of RIRA.

Anonymous said...

Elected official or not, Mr. Shane is the ruler of this Island! and he has to make sure everyone follows the law and for RIRA's sake, Katz shoud refrain for doing this again in the future. It seems like everyone here does not agree with you Mr. Blogger.

Anonymous said...

I think the former and current presidents are nothing but cowards

Anonymous said...

RIRA that is

Anonymous said...

RIRA is not a charity or tax deductable not for profit organization, 501 (c)3 so the film companies will have a hard time "donating"
any monies to them. Shame on Mr. Katz and RIRA.

RIOC is working hard to make the island desirable for film shoots
and they are getting good fees from production companies to use the island.

Mr. Katz can destroy the efforts by his extorting money from the companies.