Majority Leader Van Bramer Rallies for $40 Million Increase for Arts and Culture

Rally for Cultural Funding

On Thursday, May 19, Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, Council Minority Leader Steven Matteo, over a dozen other Council Members, and members of the cultural community rallied for a $40 million increase in funding for cultural organizations in Fiscal Year 2017. The Council Members were joined by actor, playwright, and director Ruben Santiago-Hudson, actor Daphne Rubin-Vega, El Museo Del Barrio Executive Director Daniel Veneciano, and other members of the cultural community. The group is calling for an increase of $40 million, to be split evenly between Cultural Institutions Groups and Cultural Program Groups, which include many neighborhood-based cultural organizations.

Funding for arts and culture has remained essentially flat since 2008, while the number of visitors to cultural organizations has increased. Cultural groups and organizations are an economic powerhouse in the city, with the creative sector accounting for seven percent of the city’s jobs. More than 25 million tourists visit New York City’s cultural attractions every year, up from 19 million in 2002. Moreover, in addition to other free admission opportunities, many cultural organizations have also offered free memberships to IDNYC holders, 400,000 of which have been redeemed so far. The increased investment in cultural funding would be spread to cultural organizations throughout the five boroughs.

“Every child, in every neighborhood, deserves access to arts and culture,” said City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, Chair of the Committee on Cultural Affairs and Libraries. “Arts and culture bring so much to our city. The spur our economy, attract tourists, educate our children, connect us to our heritage, and inspire our imaginations. Cultural organizations do all of this, despite declining support from the City, state, and federal government. It’s time for us to give back to these organizations that make New York the vibrant, creative city it is.”

“For years outer borough, and especially Staten Island, cultural organizations did not get their fair share of the City’s budget,” said City Council Minority Leader Steven Matteo. “We have an opportunity this year to right that wrong and expand our support of cultural programming throughout the five boroughs. Many of New York’s greatest cultural gems are in Staten Island, and I will continue to work with Majority Leader Van Bramer and Finance Chair Ferreras-Copeland to make this much needed increased funding a reality.”

While the number of cultural organizations has grown, particularly in the outer boroughs, funding from the city, state, and federal government has declined for years. NEA funding is dropped 15 percent inflation-adjusted numbers between 2003 and 2013, and New York State Council on the Arts funding has decreased by 37 percent in inflation adjusted dollars. At the same time, the number of cultural organizations in the five boroughs has grown, with the number of cultural organizations in Staten Island, Brooklyn, and Queens more than doubling between 2005 and 2015.

“We have an obligation to tourists, who come to see our skyline and architecture, to fill the buildings with incredible art and culture,” said Council Member Joseph Borelli. “We also have an obligation to make sure the arts touch every corner of every borough in the city.”

Council Member Costa Constantinides said, “Our city's strength is in our cultural diversity.  That's why it's important that we invest in cultural organizations that reflect our communities. Our cultural institutions connect all New Yorkers to the arts, as well as encourage tourism and job growth.  An increase of $40 million would help provide resources that our cultural organizations need to serve us.  I stand with my colleagues in calling for this additional investment and I commend Council Member Van Bramer for his leadership.”

“Our city’s cultural institutions change lives, build communities and strengthen our economy,” said Council Member Elizabeth Crowley. “NYC Inspires will bring opportunities in the arts to New Yorkers of all ages and backgrounds, and I am proud to support this initiative. Thank you to Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer for his leadership and advocacy for New York City cultural programs.”

“Cultural institutions are the touch points in our neighborhoods. I stand passionately in support of the 'NYC Inspires' campaign and thank Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer for his leadership in supporting arts and culture by elevating the voices of  our creative community through a citywide movement,” said Council Member Laurie A. Cumbo. “The City of New York has a tremendous dilemma. An increasing number of organizations, who have contributed to our thriving economy, are in need of our fiscal support to meet growing demand and operational expenses.. In order to sustain the important role that cultural institutions play in all five boroughs, it is important that we designate additional support to preserve the integrity and longevity of the arts community, regardless if they are noted as CIGs or small community-based cultural arts groups. Collectively, let’s rise up and support the 'NYC Inspires' campaign!”

“Cultural groups make New York City dynamic and engaging, but they also create jobs, drive tourism, and contribute huge sums every year to our local economy,” said Council Member Dan Garodnick. “We need to make sure their funding keeps pace with the demand, and that these groups have all the support they need to help New York thrive.”

“New York City is one of the art and culture capitals of the world,” said Council Member Barry S. Grodenchik. “It is imperative that residents throughout the five boroughs have access to the first-rate cultural programs that our city has to offer. The demand for cultural programs has clearly expanded and so should the funding. The $40 million that the Council is asking for is important to ensuring that our cultural programs can grow.”

“The art and cultural programs I experienced when I was a youngster in school had a positive impact on me, even to this day,” said Council Member Andy King, Chair of the Subcommittee on Libraries. “When we walk around the City of New York and experience all of the beautiful programs it’s a testament of who we are as a people. I urge the de Blasio Administration to continue to partner with the City Council and our arts and cultural centers around the city and raise the level of funding for FY17.  And, I want to commend Council Member Van Bramer, for raising awareness to the need to continue and raise the funding for our cultural organizations.”

“If we are to live healthy and fulfilling lives, we must take time to appreciate the arts and culture,” said Council Member Peter Koo. “Without culture and the arts, we are like bodies without souls. As residents of the arts and culture capital of the world, New Yorkers cannot afford to neglect this important part of our livelihood.”

“Access to New York City’s world-class cultural institutions should be available to all,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “The success of IDNYC is proof of the public’s appetite to engage in the enriching and stimulating experiences offered by our arts and cultural institutions. Let’s come together and provide cultural funding the support it deserves.”

“The human and economic benefits of investment in arts and cultural institutions are undeniable,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca. “Yet the City has failed to increase funding for them since 2008. For example, innovative programs like IDNYC have opened the doors of our institutions to hundreds of thousands of people. The demand for participation is obvious but our support for the organizations is insufficient. In neighborhood-based cultural organizations the impact of increased funding is especially beneficial.  If we’re building inclusive, sustainable communities then we must increase our support of the arts and cultural institutions that improve the lives of New Yorkers and propel our economy.”

“The role our world-class cultural institutions play cannot possibly be measured when it comes to their monumental impact on our residents, our growth and our city as a whole,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez. “We owe it to all of them, from the largest and most famous museums, to the smallest community theatres, because of the insight, intelligence and cultural understanding that each provides. Every civilization is remembered for its art. To grow the reach of this golden age in New York City, it’s time to make a real investment in our vitally important cultural institutions.”

“As a former history teacher, I believe that cultural education and programming and the arts are the cornerstones behind any historical tradition,” said Council Member Mark Treyger. “If we want to continue forging our city’s rich history and tradition, we must reverse the trend of declining funding for cultural organizations in New York City. For too long, places like Southern Brooklyn have failed to receive the kind of attention they deserve, despite making plenty of contributions to the cultural melting pot that is our city. You won’t find many parts of the city with as a rich a culture and tradition in the arts as Coney Island, for example. All of us, no matter what part of the city we come from, deserve to be exposed to that which makes us human and that which defines who we are, just as all of New York City’s culture, regardless of the neighborhood, deserves to be celebrated. I would like to thank Majority Leader Van Bramer for his advocacy. There is no doubt that we need to devote more funding to this important matter.”

“Increasing funding for our city’s cultural institutions is a no-brainer,” said Deputy Leader James Vacca. “Given the overwhelming success of IDNYC across all 5 boroughs, we’ve given New Yorkers unprecedented access to the best of culture. The City needs to keep up with this momentum and support the greater demand for these institutions.”

“New York City has long been a cultural capital of the world because New Yorkers understand that the arts are vital to the heritage of a people,” said Tino Gagliardi, President, Associated Musicians of greater New York Local 802 AFM. “Live music transcends lingual, generational, cultural, social and economic barriers, making it a important part of our City's efforts to create a more equitable and inclusive place for all New Yorkers. I commend Councilmember Van Bramer, every elected official here today and our cultural colleagues for standing in support of the arts in New York City. Together, we can fight to ensure that New York City remains a place where cultural institutions thrive and our valued artists can continue to live, work and raise a family.”

“Access to the arts is personal for the seniors who sing and dance together; who are healthier for the socially joyful interaction. It’s personal to all of the parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents who want for the next generation to be creative and happy sharing performances, paintings, songs and stories passed down. Access to the arts happens where we live, walk, work and gather,” said Sheila Lewandowski, Executive Director of the Chocolate Factory Theater. “As a city, we cannot take for granted that artists will just keep breathing life into our city and that the places we gather to share arts and culture can survive without our collective support. As a citizen of NYC, I demand that we increase the cultural budget as we increase the budget, or this city will lose all that is unique and special."