Council Arts Chair calls on NYC to increase budget in ‘Cultural Capital of the World’

Brooklyn Councilmember Chi Ossé wants to commit 1 percent of New York City’s budget to the arts sector, which eliminated more than 208,000 jobs in the first months of the pandemic.

Ed Reed / Mayor Photo Office

A dance performance in February 2021, part of the city’s Open Culture Program.

The head of the city council’s culture committee is urging the mayor and his colleagues to reverse proposed cuts and commit 1 percent of New York City’s budget to an arts sector devastated by the COVID pandemic.

Brooklyn Councilman Chi Ossé, chairman of the Committee on Cultural Affairs, said the 1 percent budget baseline – which would equate to $ 10 billion based on current spending plans by the mayor and council – would bring back many of the arts-related jobs New York City lost in the pandemic while ensuring that the funds go to smaller organizations led by colored people. New York City threw more than 208,000 jobs in the arts sector, accounting for $ 8.5 billion in lost earnings in the first four months of the pandemic, according to a 2020 report from the Brookings Institute. Many of these jobs have not yet returned.

“I urge the new administration as well as my colleagues to adopt 1 percent of our city’s budget allocation for arts and culture,” Ossé said Sunday during a performance on WBAI’s City Watch. “We in the arts and culture deserve much more, especially given the economic impact we have on the city, and especially if we want to recover at the speed we do in this quasi-post-pandemic world.”

But Ossé’s spending targets may be out of reach for fiscal year 2023. Mayor Eric Adams’ proposed budget would instead cut funding to the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) by nearly $ 78 million. In its response earlier this month, the city council recommended reducing DCLA spending by $ 28 million.

Ossé said these cuts will only fuel inequality and hinder the city’s overall recovery.

“Given the amount of tourism dollars that culture brings to this city, our funding is our cultural [institution] should be much bigger than it is at the moment, “he said.” We are the cultural capital of the world. “

He said the pandemic’s impact on art and culture affects small artists who benefit from urban funding, as well as the people who staff large institutions – such as his constituents in Brooklyn’s 36th District.

“While Broadway does not exist in Bed Stuy and Crown Heights, the culture lives on in my community,” Ossé said. “Those who contribute to the cultural atmosphere of New York live in Bed Stuy, live in Crown Heights.”

Ossé began chairing the culture committee – which oversees DCLA, the art institutions and New York City’s three public library systems – five years after the city released an ambitious plan to increase equity in the city’s iconic art scene. The 2017 plan, known as CreateNYC, was also intended to increase funding for artists and organizations in low-income communities, as well as color creators and artists with disabilities, while addressing their needs for manpower, affordability and professional development.

However, the COVID crisis has taken a toll on art equity in New York City. A 2021 report from the Center for an Urban Future found that a quarter of cultural organizations in New York City’s lower-income zip codes lost access to their physical spaces during the pandemic.

Ossé said he is working with DCLA to streamline the application process for the city’s Cultural Development Fund to ensure that smaller organizations – especially led by colored people – can access cash.

“Some of these applications can be really tedious and difficult to navigate through, and DCLA has taken this into account,” he said. “The new Commissioner [former City Councilmember Laurie Cumbo] has, I have as chairman, and we are adjusting the process as it is to make it much more open to smaller organizations, black and brown organizations, non-white organizations that have not previously been included in the CDF funding. “

The April 24 episode of City Watch also featured an interview with the U.S. rep. Jamaal Bowman, who discussed his strategies for tackling gun violence – including a recent executive order aimed at curbing “ghost weapons”.

The conversation with Ossé was the latest episode in a City Limits / City Watch series of interviews with all of New York City’s new council members.

Listen to the full section here:

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