Man on a mission: ‘Americans’ studio owner fights city land grab

On a mission: Eastern Effects owner Scott Levy is trying to convince the city not to sieze his studio during the Gownaus Canal cleanup, and use a different lot instead.
Brooklyn Paper
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The Gowanus studio where cable network FX films its sexy Cold War spy drama “The Americans” is on a not-so-secret mission to stop the city seizing its land as part of the federal Canal cleanup.

The owner of Eastern Effects Studios on Nevins Street has mounted a public relations assault to convince city officials that there are several better lots nearby, after they told him last month that they plan to take the soundstage via eminent domain and pulverize it to make way for construction equipment while building a giant sewage tank nearby.

“There are alternative sites that are vacant, available, and serve the same purpose or better,” said Scott Levy, who owns the studio between Degraw and Sackett streets.

Levy — who says he has sunk $5 million into building his studio and is only five years into a 20-year lease on the property — claims losing his studio would also pulverize his business and hundreds of jobs.

Eastern Effects has two other properties along the canal, but the Nevins Street one — the site of all the interior sets for “The Americans” — is its largest and most lucrative. If it closes, the business couldn’t survive on the backs of the others, he said.

“If this studio goes, it takes down the other studio locations along with it,” he said.

There had to be another way — and there is, Levy says.

There are two already-vacant lots of the same size right near the tank site, and another that has been on the market for years, according to a website he set up to argue his case.

And many locals and Hollywood types are rallying around Levy’s cause — nearly 1,800 residents, community groups, businesses, and pols have sent letters or signed petitions urging the city and Feds to at least look at the alternative sites, according to a spokesman for the studio.

“It is worthwhile from a public policy perspective to explore alternatives that would not unnecessarily harm a young and thriving business,” Councilman Steve Levin (D–Boerum Hill) wrote in his submission.

“The Americans” stars — including Brooklyn Heights residents Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys — haven’t come out fighting because their contracts prevent them from talking to the press about such things, according to Levy, but FX parent company Fox Entertainment Group submitted a letter of support.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency said the city will make the final call on what slices of land it seizes for the tank project, but there is some hope that the studio will live to see a clean canal — a spokesman for Mayor DeBlasio said City Hall is taking the Eastern Effects’ case into account.

“We will continue to work diligently and creatively to find the best path forward,” said spokesman Raul Contreras.

If the city goes ahead with the plan to use eminent domain to take the Eastern Effects lot, Levy said he can still try to fight it in court, but judges’ rulings in similar cases do not bode well.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Ericsson from Cobble Hill says:
Logistical cost differences are driving the decision? Maybe if Levy insists upon a more costly site for public infrastructure, he should use his money making business to help fund that change of plan directly.

Looks like palatable land for developer$ and their 'generous' narrow waterfront walkways.

What's really happening here?
June 1, 2016, 8:03 pm
John Wasserman from Prospect Heights says:
Hello, John Wasserman here. Just want you to know that John Wasserman is reading these comments and thinking about it.
June 1, 2016, 8:33 pm
Mustache Pete from Windsor Terrace says:
No one cares, John Wasserman. But then you already knew that.

Tal Barzillai may barely have the IQ of an imbecile but at least he says something.
June 1, 2016, 10:54 pm
Lev from level ground says:
Ericsson, the logistical costs that displacing this company for public infrastructure are a whopping half a billion more then the alternate plan for this infrastructure.

It will cost you and every other New York a lot of money to go with the plan that puts this company out of business when there is a more reasonable way to meet the infrastructure objective needs for far less money that leaves the local businesses intact.
June 2, 2016, 10:44 am
Charles from Bklyn says:
And let's remember this land is zoned light industrial( I believe), so displacing this studio business instead of a pending residental property is not within the spirit nor public policy of keeping this area a place for businesses and the jobs that it creates/sustains.
June 2, 2016, 11:35 am
Katie from Greenpoint says:
Make him pay for inconveniencing physical infrastructural logistics with his nearsighted soaps. Sue him for delaying the Superfund clean-up process!

Damn Levin just rolls over and plays dead.
June 2, 2016, 1:33 pm
Paul from Brooklyn Heights says:
Flood zone property shouldn't be developed.
June 2, 2016, 2:09 pm
Jim from Cobble Hill says:
Who was defending the residents of Gowanus and Carroll Gardens when these out of town jerks were taking up huge areas of Court and Smith streets, stopping local deliveries and customer access to the businesses that make this area a great place to live? No one. Good riddance to these carpet baggers. Go film stuff in New Jersey.
June 3, 2016, 12:26 am
Wanda from Park Slope says:
Jim - chill out, no one besides you cares about that.
If there are other options, why would they go through the expensive process of kicking out an existing business? Have the other lots been considered? As far as I understand eminent domain, there has to be a clear reason why that particular property is needed, and why others are unacceptable. Either the city has been negligent, and not considered it's options, or the paper has written an article without all the information (why they will not use the other suggested properties). As this article seems to be written only form the information gathered from the man opposing it - I assume the author was fine writting an unbalanced article and did not get information from the city. Poor research, and an incomplete and not neccessarily trustworthy article.
June 3, 2016, 3:39 am
Jim from Harlem says:
This guy isn't as nice and innocent as he's trying to appear. I hear from people in the industry that the company treats their own people like ——.

Bias aside...the canal is absolutely disgusting and needs to be taken care of for the good of the community. It's embarrassing.

This isn't about David vs Goliath. It's about his bank account.
June 6, 2016, 6:18 pm

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