By Joy Bergmann
Wannabe models are here and they’re waking the babies.
It all started last week when Deanna Lo looked south from her apartment and noticed stirrings inside 51 West 83rd Street, a luxury townhouse that had long been on the market for $14.8 million. Someone finally moved in, she thought.
Saturday evening, a party filled the townhouse’s back garden. “It was like the East Village or Meatpacking District – millennials – not the Upper West Side. It was over by 10, so I let it go,” she says.
By Sunday night, bright lights had been strung and another whooping gathering took off, says Lo. “Constant cheering, screaming and clapping for hours.” She didn’t know what was going on, but she did know her 4-month old baby had been woken up twice by the mayhem. She called 311 to complain.
Other neighbors took a more direct approach as the noise continued past 11:30pm, according to Lo. “People starting yelling, ‘Shut up!’ ‘Go to sleep!’ ‘Cut it out or I’m calling the cops.’” That sent the revelers scrambling inside.
Monday morning, still furious about her infant’s sleep schedule being messed with, Lo marched over to the building demanding an explanation. She found a weary but apologetic production team explaining that they were making a “reality show” and that they’d try to keep the talent in check.
Lo asked West Side Rag to find out more.
There were no permits issued by the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment for this past Sunday. But, as Stephanie Browne, Press Secretary for MOME, says, permits are not required to film on private property. Similarly, shoots with hand-held cameras that do not impede public movements on public property do not require City permits either.
According to the contact on pink permit signs currently up on that 83rd Street block, there will be brief shoot for an independent feature this week, not a reality show.
So, who’s waking the baby?
“It’s America’s Next Top Model,” says Jonathan Stuart, a 40-year resident who owns the two townhouses sandwiching the set’s building. He knows because he rented office space to the production. The lease runs until August 30th. “It’s a great deal for them and a great deal for me.”
The property was built in 1890 and underwent a massive renovation in recent years; it now boasts 6 bedrooms and 8 bathrooms. Stuart thinks it never sold because it was overpriced, and he questioned the wisdom of renting the luxury property to a reality show. A representative for the owner, which is listed as an LLC on city records, was not available for comment.
Stuart agrees with Lo’s assessment of ANTM’s first weekend on the Upper West Side. “It was really annoying,” he says. “I think [the contestants] got instructed to scream a lot. Like Jerry Springer.”
Production staffers on site Monday evening refused to answer WSR’s questions about the project. A message sent to the production manager garnered no response.
“They’re kids who are running the show – can’t be more than 21, 25,” says Stuart. “The last lecture I gave them was: their interns have to be respectful to the neighborhood. They have to understand this is a residential community and we don’t give a f*** about your television show.”
Locals hoping for a glimpse of long-time host, supermodel Tyra Banks, will be out of luck. Banks remains executive producer, but ended her on-camera role when ANTM finished its 22nd season on The CW. VH1 has resurrected the model-search program and installed a new host, singer/actress Rita Ora.
Stuart hopes neighbors will give the crew a second chance, “They’re good guys, but they’re young. Experience is a great teacher.”
Standing on his back porch overlooking the set’s garden – complete with what appears to be a mini-catwalk – he vows to enforce good behavior. “I have no problem picking up that hose and using it.”
Photos by Joy Bergmann.