Selena Blake doesn’t live in those Queensbridge Houses. Not the ones in the news, riddled with drugs and violence. Blake has spent almost 20 years in her Queensbridge Houses, in Long Island City, Queens, in the shadows of the Queensboro Bridge, and she says they are not like that anymore. Blake’s Queensbridge, the largest housing project in the country with 96 buildings and more than 15,000 residents, is a safe place, close to Manhattan, where even between jobs she can make the rent and afford to feed herself and her son. And living there, she said, allowed her as a single parent “the freedom to be a mom” to her son, Daniel Brown, 18. “The rent was low enough that I could afford to take jobs where I could be here when he got out of school every day,” said the caterer, actress and model, who has appeared in a few “Sex and the City” episodes and several magazine shoots. “I could attend all the school functions and meetings because I didn’t have to work all the time to pay the rent. I felt perfectly safe here, because people were looking out for us.
” And though she had seen the bad days – “before I moved here, I had never seen so many young men standing around on a corner,” she said – the place has improved radically since 2001, when police increased their presence. Blake wants more people to see Queensbridge that way. That’s the idea behind “Queensbridge: The Other Side,” a documentary on the complex that Blake has been filming during the past year. Yet all of her experience in front of the camera hadn’t begun to prepare Blake for work behind it. For instance, at first she hired a professional film crew – at a couple thousand dollars a day. They lasted a week – the same time her money ran out. Then there were the film permits, surety bonds and insurance, costs that had to be met even when Blake said she didn’t know how she would pay her rent. “I’ve had a few eviction notices, and sometimes I have no idea why I started this in the first place,” she said. “But every time I start thinking I want to stop, something comes up to keep me going. The money appears from nowhere, or someone calls to tell me how much they enjoyed talking to me. That keeps me going.
” With a crew of volunteers and sometimes wielding the camera and sound equipment by herself, Blake said she has captured more than 75 hours of interviews with Queensbridge residents past and present. She has wrangled talks with NBA star and Queensbridge native Ron Artest; rapper Nas (Nasir Jones), another local made good, and still is trying to nail one with legendary rap producer Marlon (Marley Marl) Williams, who, with MC Shan, created “The Bridge,” an early rap megahit about life in Queensbridge. She has gotten New York Supreme Court Justice Carol Robinson Edmead, actor Mel Johnson, assemblymen and -women, court officers, police officers and sometimes-reluctant residents to sit for her. Advertisements in neighborhood papers and word of mouth got her a sitdown with a group of Jewish and Italian-American women who grew up in Queensbridge back in the 1940s – the project was opened in 1939 – who met just so Blake could capture them on camera. Her interview subjects produced hundreds of still pictures that also appear in the documentary. Blake also found Greg Larkin, a professional film director and producer, at a Black Filmmakers Foundation mixer. Larkin said he was so impressed with Blake’s drive to finish the project that he signed on. “I see this as an opportunity to tell a great story,” Larkin said. He noted that when Queensbridge residents were mostly Jewish and Italian, “There were a lot of social programs available that they used to get out of the projects. Those programs don’t exist here anymore, and that means it’s more difficult for people to be as upwardly mobile.
” Blake estimates she has sunk about $50,000 into “Queensbridge” and probably needs about as much to finish it. firstname.lastname@example.org.
QUEENSBRIDGE READY FOR ITS CLOSEUP. To learn more about Selena Blake and “Queensbridge: The Other Side,” go to
spaces.msn.com/members/maynovproductions/ or E-mail her at email@example.com.
Original article can be found here: Daily News