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Late-Night Made-for-TV Firefight Angers Irvington Residents

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February 2, 2016

by Barrett Seaman

The first volley of gunfire—assault rifles, machine guns?—went off around 9:30 p.m. and lasted about 30 seconds. Another pierced the night air just before 10 p.m. They continued well into the night, intermittently every half hour or so, some punctuated by loud explosions and accompanied by flashes of light. Several residents nearby 65 Field Terrace, high up on the hill near the Dobbs Ferry/Irvington border, were awakened from sleep; young children were terrified, assuming a real gun battle with real bad guys was taking place outside their house. A number of homeowners called the Irvington Police, and at least two had the temerity to bundle up and walk over to the edge of the property, where police car lights were flashing, to find out what was going on and, most of all, to make it stop.

It didn’t—at least not until after 2 a.m. Saturday morning, when the film crew shooting an action episode for the Warner Brothers TV series Blindspot finally wrapped for the night. By then, quite a number of residents, some of them nearly half a mile away, were incensed—at the owners of the 19-room, 8,000 sq. ft. stucco mansion who now live in Florida and had rented the house out to filmmakers while they await a buyer, at the village government for issuing a permit for such activity, and at their own police, who kept telling the complainants on the scene and over the phone that the crew had a valid permit and there was nothing the officers could do about it. At the annual meeting of the Ardsley Park Property Owners Association (APPOA) just two days later, Mayor Brian Smith, who was unaware of the incident, got an earful from several offended constituents.

As previously reported in this newspaper, Irvington is a popular location for moviemakers and TV producers who are attracted to its Everytown USA atmosphere, its variety of housing and terrain and its proximity to the city. For the most part, village residents tolerate the occasional minor inconveniences, such as when Station Road was closed to traffic for the better part of a week for a scene from Dreamworks’ forthcoming The Girl On the Train, while enjoying the proximity of Hollywood stars and big name producers and directors—oh, and the income generated by location fees. The Blindspot episode proved the exception.

Late last year, Warner Brothers TV applied for a permit to use the 65 Field Terrace property for the second time in a year. Since the previous shooting had gone smoothly and unnoticed, the village manager and trustees were relaxed when location manager Jason McCauley came before the board December 16 to win approval for a shoot on January 8. He described the planned scene in which FBI agents would move in on the house to free a couple of female hostages. The subsequent confrontation between agents and bad guys, McCauley said, would involve simulated assault weapons fire and explosions that would have to take place after dark. He assured trustees that they would do this as early in the evening as possible and end the noisy parts by dinnertime. He would of course inform neighbors of what was to come to avoid surprises. The video of the meeting shows that trustee questions focused on the plot, taking no note of the fact that the permit request was from 10 in the morning until 1 a.m. the next and what that might mean for neighbors.

McCauley and/or his staff did indeed place leaflets in the mailboxes of immediate neighbors, explaining that there would be simulated gunfire and explosions and that the activity would go until midnight. But Warner Brothers staffers assured some residents that the disruption would come early in the evening.

It didn’t work out that way. Village officials and police indicate that the shoot got started several hours late and that the bang-bang sequences were pushed later and later into the evening.

Crewmembers kept assuring officers posted near the site that they would be done soon. The police, in turn, told complaining residents that there was nothing they could do, as the filmmakers had a legitimate permit. Offices later explained to Village Manager Larry Schopfer that while they knew the filming was running over the permitted time, it was better to get the filming over in one night, rather than to drag everyone back for a second night of simulated chaos.

“Absolutely ridiculous,” fumed Ardsley Park resident Jay Jenkins, who lives at least a quarter of a mile from the site but had no notice of the filming. “They can spin this any way they want, but it was the result of a flawed process.”

Smith would not disagree. “We had worked with this exact team a year ago on a shot for The Following. They had simulated gunfire as well, with no incidents. So, I think our guard was down a little. Going forward, we are going to limit any loud noises and ensure that we give the police a hard stop time that will not be negotiable.”

“We have had dozens and dozens of film shoots since I have been in office,” said the mayor, “and probably hundreds over the years. This is the first one that has caused a major issue. The Board of Trustees will ensure that this does not happen again.”

When asked to explain their reasoning for continuing explosions until after 2 a.m. in a quiet residential neighborhood, a Warner Brothers publicist replied, ”We have no comment.”

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