Anonymous group stirs up backlash against Netflix plan for NJ
Ahead of an announcement on which project has been chosen for the redevelopment of a large parcel of vacant land in Monmouth County, one anonymous group of “local residents” has launched an anti-Netflix grassroots campaign.
“No2Netflix” has created its own website and social media accounts. It is self-billed as “a group of people who live and work in the communities around Fort Monmouth.”
“We just want people to inform themselves about the realities of a film studio and we believe that they will say NO to Netflix too,” according to the No2Netflix site.
What is being redeveloped?
The Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority received four bids by the deadline in June regarding the nearly 300-acre “Mega Parcel” spanning parts of Eatontown and Oceanport along Route 537.
The U.S. Army base closed in September 2011 and many buildings on the site have fallen into disrepair.
There is no estimate as to the group’s membership size, as they have remained completely anonymous in setting up the accounts, saying they fear legal retaliation by the streaming giant.
Why 'no' to Netflix?
Under the self-posed question “Do you back some other project instead,” the No2Netlfix site says “Netflix’s plan is to create what amounts to an industrial site on 300 acres of Fort Monmouth."
"We don’t think that that meets the spirit of the economic redevelopment plan and we don’t think it is a positive addition to the community.”
Of the three other bids, critics of the Netflix plan said “each proposal should be made public."
"Our tax dollars are being used and our citizens and community will be impacted. But the other bids seem to be a combination of retail, housing, parks and community spaces, education venues, and areas for business and tech development.”
Defense of job creation
On the No2Netflix site, there is an entire section named "The Jobs Creation Lie."
It counters the support of New Jersey Business and Industry Association President and CEO Michele Siekerka for the high-profile Netflix bid, saying such support "highlights the aspirational, wishful thinking that deludes communities, business leaders, and politicians into believing that a film studio will create high-tech, high-income, recession-proof jobs."
The NJBIA believes Netflix will be a boon.
“We maintain that Netflix’s arrival will indeed bring job creation to New Jersey, be an economic driver for Monmouth County and surrounding areas, and help New Jersey grow as an East Coast hub for the film and television industry,” Bob Considine of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association said in a written statement to New Jersey 101.5.
“It’s been over a decade since Fort Monmouth closed its doors and jobs disappeared. It is time we realized the Fort Monmouth economic promise.”
Curated list of failure
Under a “resources” page, the No2Netflix site says “Netflix is bad for Fort Monmouth. Actually, any 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 dating back over a decade from far beyond NJ — and some from other countries.
The first link, “Tax Foundation: Movie Production Incentives in the Last Frontier,” is a 2012 article from the independent tax policy nonprofit.
A more current look at film tax incentives across the country can be found at the National Conference of State Legislatures site, which in May said that at least 15 states in the past two years, alone, have enacted measures to implement or expand film tax incentives.
The same section of the No2Netflix site includes several links to previous coverage of the company that owned the film studio in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which filed for and emerged from bankruptcy before the property was ultimately bought by Netflix.
“An estimated 9,000 New Mexicans are employed by the New Mexico film, television, and digital media industry and a 2021 economic impact study indicated the industry generated an estimated $1.37 billion in economic output from FY20-21,” according to the New Mexico Film Office in a March press release.
When asked about the grassroots effort against one of the bids for which Gov. Phil Murphy has voiced support, the Governor’s Office declined to comment on Monday.
Bids to redevelop Fort Monmouth
When announcing the four accepted bids in June, the panel said that the selection process could take “several months.”
RDR Partners involves stakeholders Russo Development, Dinallo Development and River Development Equities.
Extell Development Company is a New York-based real estate company.
The remaining bidder, Mega Parcel Development, was filed with state officials in January, with Joseph Saadia as its registered agent. It includes development, architecture design, engineering, and consulting firms.
Green spaces versus industrial
One of the issues that No2Netflix has repeated about the Netflix plans is that it would amount to an industrial site on what is currently vacant property.
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 flex structures that can accommodate film and TV sound stages, and related production facilities."
Another of the bids, RDR Partners, reportedly pitched three districts, one for movie and film production companies — with residential units and space for tech and innovation companies and retail mixed in, as reported by the Asbury Park Press.
In 2019, concerns had already spiked about whether the field would stay "open" enough for some local residents' tastes.
“I can tell you there has been no decision made as to the ultimate disposition of Greeley Field; it will remain forever green but it was never perceived to remain unused,” according to a previous report by The Two River Times quoting FMERA executive director Bruce Steadman.
Whether a bid meets the redevelopment criteria has been laid out in the volumes of documents posted online by FMERA.
Erin Vogt is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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