Plans include procedures, parking, location experts

Hundreds of New York showbiz’s finest mingled in the stately Emigrant Savings building downtown to hear film commissioner Katherine Oliver lay out plans to streamline the process of making movies in the city.

The measures came at a time when New York is eager to attract new business to the city, as it battles a flagging economy, looming budget deficit and continued fallout from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“We’re going to have some tough times as all of you know,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at the event. “But there is no place that has the hand to play that we have to play.”

Among the initiatives unveiled by the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting at the gala was a measure move the city’s labyrinthine film-permit procedures online.

Plan, whose announcement drew enthusiastic applause from the assembled entertainment insiders, would update a procedure that had been performed mainly on typewriters for nearly half a century, and make it far easier for filmmakers to clear the city’s bureaucratic hurdles.

Oliver also unveiled ongoing efforts to streamline New York’s parking and tags services for film crews working in the city, and to build a staff of location experts that act as liaisons between the industry and city government.

“You all have come through for the city in a big way, and this administration and this office want to do the same thing for you,” Oliver said.

In addition, the commissioner said she is working with the city’s Economic Development Corporation to develop a searchable database of New York locations to make scouting easier.

Separately, Oliver announced that New York Police Lt. John Battista, head of the NYPD’s Film and Television Unit since 1998, would join the office as deputy commissioner.

The film and TV production industries spent $5 billion on location in New York last year, and generated $500 million in tax revenues for the city, according to the office. Roughly 170 features were shot in Gotham in 2001, and just under 100 TV series are currently film in town.

Among the film projects set to lense in the city over winter and spring are Scott Rudin’s “The School of Rock” and “The Stepford Wives,” as well as Michel Gondry’s “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more