To the editors:
[Re: "Class Encounters," by Henry Sheehan, January 8.]
I thought your readers might be interested in this story concerning the filming of Steven Spielberg's new movie, Batteries Not Included.
This movie was filmed on a vacant lot in a burned-out area of Manhattan's Lower East Side (Eighth Street between Avenues C and D). In order to achieve the scene in which the building burns down, Spielberg built as a set a complete fake tenement on this lot in which the movie was filmed, and which was then burned down.
The filming of the movie sparked protests from housing activists in the community. It is an insult to New York City's tenant movement, the protesters said, to present aliens from another planet as the sole hope for tenants facing eviction. More significantly, in an area where real housing is so desperately needed, it is a crime against the community to construct fake housing, only to burn it down and leave nothing for the community. If Spielberg were really concerned about gentrification, the protesters said, he would use the proceeds of this movie to construct actual low-income housing.
As a result of the publicity surrounding these protests, the Spielberg people donated $100,000 to various housing organizations in New York City.
Ironically, between the time that the movie was filmed and the time it was released, most of the burned-out buildings in the neighborhood that loom in the background of the movie have been razed, Avenue C has been paved and renamed (it's now called Loisada Avenue), and new construction is everywhere. Already, hordes of yuppies, not unlike the young developer character in the movie (Spielberg sure got that one down right!) are flocking into the Lower East Side.