A little bit of TV glitz has come to Staten Island, as the HBO series "Boardwalk Empire" has set up shop at the former Cedar Grove Beach Club, much to the chagrin of former beach residents who were booted out with promises that the space would be made public. Borough reporter Amanda Farinacci filed the following report.
Cottage Number 4 at the Cedar Grove Beach Club looked the same for years, but thanks to a facelift from the HBO production Boardwalk Empire, the old home looks a little different.
"They've added columns and a little portico to it. I know, I was down in the beginning of January and they were fixing glass windows and they've taken down a lot of the screens so you could see the windows better," said former Cedar Grove resident Eleanor Dugan. "So apparently they're going to be filming out here from the outside."
The Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment and the Parks Department both confirm that they have made an arrangement with "Boardwalk Empire" to allow the show to film scenes at Cedar Grove Beach, though it is unclear for how long and when filming will next take place there.
Crews were out earlier in the week, filming on both Tuesday and Wednesday.
For nearly 100 years, a lucky few rented the 41 cottages that line the water. But last September, the Parks Department, which owns the land, forced the residents off the 45-acre site so it could make way for a public park.
An annual dinner dance held at Cedar Grove Beach Club in 1937.
There are few details about the upcoming park, except that it will be built in stages.
The agency has sealed the site to the public, and insists it is readying the space, though former residents are not so sure.
"I think it's a little hypocritical," said former Cedar Grove resident John Murphy. "They said they're going to open it up to the public, and obviously they're not doing that. But private concerns can actually use it, and I think that's very wrong."
Residents have historical photos of the area, such as one from 1937 taken at one of the Cedar Grove Beach Club's annual dinner dances, and they know why the space is so attractive to film crews.
They say "Boardwalk Empire" makes a lot of sense because it is set in the late 1920s, during Prohibition. They also say that is why Cedar Grove should be preserved.
"It has the historical value, and that's what they were looking for in the production," said Murphy. "And we have it, we have it right here."
The state is still considering whether to give the area historic designation, which would force the city to preserve some of it.
A similar push for the space to become a landmark has fallen short, because there have been too many changes made to the cottages over the years.