Ahead of an announcement about which project has been selected for the redevelopment of a large vacant lot in Monmouth County, an anonymous group of “local residents” launched a grassroots anti-Netflix campaign.
“No2Netflix” has created its own website and social media accounts. It is itself billed as “a group of people who live and work in the communities surrounding Fort Monmouth”.
“We just want people to educate themselves about the realities of being a movie studio, and we think they’ll say NO to Netflix too,” reads website No2Netflix.
What is newly developed?
The Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority received four bids by the June deadline for the nearly 300-acre mega parcel that spans portions of Eatontown and Oceanport along Route 537.
The US Army base closed in September 2011 and many of the buildings on the site have fallen into disrepair.
There is no estimate of the group’s membership as they remained completely anonymous when setting up the accounts and said they fear legal retaliation from the streaming giant.
Why “No” to Netflix?
Under the self-asked question “Support another project instead,” the No2Netlfix site states: “Netflix plans to create something of an industrial site on 300 acres of Fort Monmouth.”
“We don’t think that’s in the spirit of the economic recovery plan, and we don’t think it’s a positive addition to the community.”
Of the three other offerings, critics of the Netflix plan said, “Each proposal should be made public.”
“Our tax dollars will be used and our citizens and community will be affected. But the other bids appear to be a combination of retail, residential, parks and community spaces, educational venues, and areas for business and technology development.”
Defense of job creation
There is an entire section on the No2Netflix site called The Jobs Creation Lie.
It counters New Jersey Business and Industry Association President and CEO Michele Siekerka’s support for the high-profile Netflix offering, saying such support “highlights the ambitious wishful thinking that leads communities, business leaders and politicians to believe that a film studio doing so will create high-tech, high-income, recession-proof jobs.”
The NJBIA believes Netflix will be a boon.
“We contend that the arrival of Netflix will indeed create jobs in New Jersey, be an economic engine for Monmouth County and the surrounding areas, and help New Jersey grow as a hub for the East Coast film and television industry,” said Bob Considine of New Jersey said the Business and Industry Association in a written statement to New Jersey 101.5.
“It has been over a decade since Fort Monmouth closed and jobs disappeared. It is time we delivered on Fort Monmouth’s economic promise.”
Curated bug list
Under a “Resources” page, the No2Netflix site says: “Netflix is bad for Fort Monmouth. Actually every film studio is bad for Fort Monmouth. But don’t just take our word for it” — followed by a list of 31 specific links to articles, some going back well beyond NJ for over a decade — and some from other countries.
The first link, “Tax Foundation: Movie Production Incentives in the Last Frontier,” is a 2012 article from the Independent Nonprofit Tax Policy.
For a more up-to-date overview of film tax incentives across the country, visit the National Conference of State Legislatures website, which reported in May that at least 15 states have enacted measures to introduce or expand film tax incentives in the past two years alone.
The same section of the No2Netflix website contains several links to previous reports about the company that owned the film studio in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which filed for and emerged from bankruptcy before the property was eventually bought by Netflix.
“An estimated 9,000 New Mexicans are employed in New Mexico’s film, television and digital media industries, and a 2021 Economic Impact Study found that the industry generated an estimated economic output of $1.37 billion in FY 20-21. dollars,” according to the New Mexico Film Office in a March press release.
When asked about grassroots efforts against one of the bids for which Gov. Phil Murphy has expressed support, the governor’s office declined to comment Monday.
Bids to redevelop Fort Monmouth
Announcing the four accepted offers in June, the panel said the selection process could take “several months”.
RDR Partners brings in the stakeholders Russo Development, Dinallo Development and River Development Equities.
Extell Development Company is a real estate company based in New York.
The remaining bidder, Mega Parcel Development, was filed with state officials in January with Joseph Saadia as the registered agent. It includes development, architectural design, engineering and consulting companies.
Green spaces versus industry
One of the issues No2Netflix has reiterated regarding the Netflix plans is that it would be an industrial site on a currently vacant lot.
Of the other bidders, Mega Parcel has shared some of its plans for a multi-district site for the nearly 300 acres — including “a home for flexible structures that can accommodate film and TV sound stages and associated production facilities.”
Another of the bids, RDR Partners, reportedly proposed three districts, one for film and film production companies — with housing units and space for technology and innovation companies, as well as retail, who got involved, Asbury Park Press reported.
Concerns had already been raised in 2019 as to whether the field would remain “open” enough for the tastes of some residents.
“I can tell you that no decision has been made as to the final disposition of Greeley Field; it will remain green forever, but it has never been seen to go unused,” said a previous report by The Two River Times, citing FMERA executive director Bruce Steadman.
Whether an offer meets the redevelopment criteria is determined in the volumes of documents put online by FMERA.
Erin Vogt is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at [email protected]
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