WWW.QNS.COM RIDGEWOOD TIMES DECEMBER 17, 2020 15
City Council passes bill to bring arts and culture to the streets
BY ANGÉLICA ACEVEDO
For many business owners and community
members, Open Streets
and Open Restaurants became
lifelines amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, Open Culture will allow artists to
turn streets into their stages.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer introduced
the bill back in August, and on
Thursday, Dec. 10, City Council passed
the legislation. Since March, cultural
institutions, performance venues and
artists across the city have not only
been forced to stay closed due to COVID-
19 health restrictions, but have also
received little aid.
With the passage of the legislation,
artist and cultural organizations
funded by the Department of Cultural
Aff airs and Borough Arts Council can
apply for expedited permits in the Open
Streets programs and approved public
spaces, while other artists can partner
with eligible organizations for permits.
This will create an opportunity for
cultural organizations to collect muchneeded
Participation in the Open Culture
program — which will be administered
by the Mayor’s Offi ce of Citywide
Event Coordination and Management
in consultation with the Department
of Transportation — will be free, with
numerous fees waived and lowered to
a maximum charge to $20.
The program would take place from
March 1, 2021, to Oct. 31, 2021.
“Arts and culture are the lifeblood of
our city. With the new Open Culture
program, artists and art groups can
start staging performances — and
charge for them — starting March 1,”
said Van Bramer. “There will be dancing,
singing and comedy on the streets
bringing joy and jobs to thousands. This
new law will be a dynamic and transformative
program for our cultural
community and will create a dynamic
open space use — a true win-win.”
While New York State COVID guidelines
allowed for some low-risk indoor
arts and entertainment to operate at
a certain capacity, such as museums
and aquariums; other performing arts
organizations and businesses considered
higher risk, such as theaters and
concerts, are not allowed to reopen.
Some have had to permanently close
due to the fi nancial strain of paying
bills while not collecting any revenue,
including the Secret Theatre and comedy
club The Creek & The Cave in Long
Island City as well as comedy club Dangerfi
eld’s in the Upper East Side.
A report by the Center for an Urban
Future, “The Changing Face of Creativity
in New York: Sustaining NYC’s
Immigrant Arts Ecosystem,” found immigrants
now account for nearly a third
of all artists in the city. However, their
report also found that many immigrantled
and immigrant-serving arts organizations,
which were already vulnerable
to fi nancial hardships, now face fi scal
catastrophe and have reported revenue
losses that amount to 50 percent or more
of their annual budgets.
Karesia Batan, executive director
of the Queensboro Dance Festival, believes
the new program is an important
“This Open Culture bill will truly be
a lifeline to the over 200 dance groups
and independent artists we support,
who all still need to work and create in
our Queens neighborhoods,” said Batan.
“We have a crucial, basic need for space
for dancers to keep NYC arts vibrant
and give dancers a chance to generate
Taryn Sacramone, executive director
of the Queens Theatre, echoed Batan’s
“Open Culture will provide much
needed opportunities for artists to
perform, turn new spaces into stages,
and bring shared experiences to all
neighborhoods in the city,” said Sacramone.
“Arts organizations can start
planning now to bring joy, beauty and
unforgettable performances outside.”
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