UPPER WEST SIDE — Some Upper West Siders say the film set for "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" recently made them extremely livid and incredibly confused.
Drivers around West 94th Street and West End Avenue were thrown into a panic recently when the production crew for the Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock movie posted signs warning drivers they had only hours to move their parked cars — or they would be towed.
Film sets routinely take over streets and set up no parking zones, but they're supposed to give drivers 48 hours notice.
In this case, signs went up at about 3:30 p.m. demanding that vehicles be moved by 10 p.m. or face a date with the tow truck, said block resident Aaron Biller, who was walking his dog on West 94th Street when he spotted the signs.
Biller said several of his neighbors, and at least one doorman on the block, scrambled to move their cars as a result. Many people in the area park their cars on Tuesday and don't expect to move them again until Friday when street cleaning happens, Biller said.
The alarmed drivers weren't only on West 94th Street. Signs threatening imminent towing were posted on West 92nd and 93rd streets too, Biller said.
"If you give people the impression that they have to move their car on a dime, you’ve upset people," Biller said. "It created a lot of confusion."
Biller now keeps his car in a garage, but he's been towed twice in the past by film crews. Knowing his neighbors faced a possible mountain of inconvenience, he called the location manager's phone numbers listed on the sign to complain about the short notice, but couldn't leave a message on either number, he said.
Next, Biller called Community Board 7. Then he called the Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting. The Mayor's Office of Film determined that "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" hadn't been authorized to use signs threatening towing — the production was only allowed to put up "no parking" signs, a spokeswoman said.
The Mayor's Office of Film had the signs removed as soon as they were notified about the situation, a spokeswoman said.
A resident on West End Avenue and West 99th Street said he's also spotted signs posted by the "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" set threatening to tow cars at 6 a.m. on a block where drivers don't normally move their cars for street cleaning until 11:30 a.m. — meaning that drivers would likely return to their spot when it was too late. The Mayor's Office of Film didn't receive any complaints from that block, a spokeswoman said.
Others who've been watching "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" shoot in the neighborhood said they've seen signs posted giving people plenty of advance warning — two days — to move their cars.
Two and a half weeks after the empty towing threats on West 94th Street, Biller received a phone call from a Warner Bros. official, who "fully acknowledged" and apologized for the inconvenience, Biller said. The signs were apparently posted improperly because of a last-minute change to the shooting schedule, Biller said.
No one was towed, but the anxiety the signs created left drivers rattled and grumpy — even in a neighborhood stocked with show business professionals who've worked on movie sets, Biller said.
"There are many, many people in the entertainment industry that live here," Biller said. "People want to be supportive, but there was a better way to handle this. They created a lot of unnecessary anxiety and commotion."
"Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" has been filming all over the Upper West Side since March. The movie is based on Jonathan Safran Foer's novel about a boy whose father died on September 11th.