Saturday, September 25, 2010

Documentary filmmakers put 'The Vanishing City' and New York's urban renewal in spotlight

NY Daily News, 9.24.10
By Joe Neumaier

Signs of urban renewal are everywhere in New York. Yet in "The Vanishing City," a gripping new documentary, filmmakers Fiore DeRosa and Jen Senko reveal ominous trends that could forever change the city's neighborhoods and communities, and not for the better.

The film, which screened earlier this week at the Harlem International Film Festival, will be shown Saturday, Sept. 25, at 10 p.m. in Brooklyn at The Knitting Factory (361 Metropolitan Ave.) as part of the Williamsburg Film Festival, which ends Sunday Sept. 26.



"At first, we wanted to document the changes in the city, coming at it really from a nostalgic point of view," says Senko. "But the more questions we asked, the film became more of a journalistic expose, a detective story.

"Essentially, we found that the city was using taxpayers' money to more and more finance luxury housing, pushing out people and businesses that had been there for generations. These developers got huge subsidies and tax breaks, while taxes on small landlords and co-ops were going up nearly 40 percent.

"The result is changing the whole culture of Manhattan, and the film took on that focus."

"In short, New York is losing communities, a vital part of what makes it special," add DeRosa. "People and families who've lived here for 20 or 30 years -- and small mom-and pop-stores that had existed for decades -- face steep hikes in rent. The small businesses can't afford to stay here, and middle-class people are getting priced out."

The directors have experienced several sides of New York since each moved here separately from New Jersey in the late 1970s and early '80s. DeRosa has supported himself as a construction worker while pursuing acting and directing in off-Broadway theater; Senko has worked as a presentation artist with financial companies. "The Vanishing City," exec-produced by Oscar-winner Erika Hampson** and narrated by actress Kathryn Erbe ("Law & Order; Criminal Intent"), reflects a love of the entire city and their mutual concern about local government's unspoken policy of what the film terms "luxurification."

"If you have these types of high-rent-only structures and pricey commercial locations that only flagship stores can occupy, you don't get to know your neighbors, and you don't have small businesses that have a stake in your community," says DeRosa. "We're not against development – a healthy city evolves, of course. What we're against is using taxpayer dollars to only subsidize luxury housing, and the rezoning of neighborhoods."
Full article

**For short film, "The New Tenants" - Producer

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List of films in production.

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