March 7, 2017
Honorable Tom Finkelpearl
New York City Department of Cultural Affairs
31 Chambers St #201
New York, NY 10007
Dear Commissioner Finkelpearl:
Thank you for meeting with us last January. Following our conversation we worked collectively to further develop recommendations for CreateNYC, but also to offer some ideas on how the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs can be a great partner and a resource to informal community driven spaces.
In an expensive city such as New York, operating and patronizing cultural spaces requires more financial capital than many local communities have. Informal community driven DIY spaces such as galleries, exchange libraries, kitchen incubators, community gardens, music and performance venues as well as co-op nurseries and after-school youth playrooms--to mention just a few--are integral to the thriving diversity and democratic character of our city.
In the wake of the heartbreaking Ghost Ship tragedy in Oakland where we lost loved ones, we must come together as a city to ensure the safety of independent cultural spaces. New York’s community driven spaces are critical to the city’s cultural production and life-saving for the people they serve and support. Preserving independent alternative community spaces during this uncertain political and economic time is essential.
The three fundamental challenges faced by these spaces are: Criminalization, Access to Financial & Administrative Support and Affordability. The NYC Artist Coalition asks the DCLA and CreateNYC to focus on the following to advance real solutions for all New Yorkers.
Prevent Criminalization of Community Driven Spaces
The criminalization, shutdown, and loss of community driven spaces will only push our community further “underground” and into other unsafe environments.
- Support repealing the antiquated Cabaret Law, a de facto tax on individual cultural expression.
- Facilitate transparency on MARCH (Multi-Agency Response to Community Hotspots) operations and on how targets are selected. Community ‘hotspots’ are precious and need to be protected and sustained, not targeted. The Coalition wants to collaborate with the City to create alternative methods to remedy noncompliant community driven spaces.
- Work across City and State agencies and advocate for a Comprehensive, Streamlined Event Permit issued in timely manner for all independent cultural projects and spaces. That is not run by the NYPD.
Access to Financial & Administrative Support
Independent creative communities represent a thriving informal economy that is excluded from vital government and philanthropic support.
Create a Task Force of Cultural Liaisons. Cultural Liaisons act as consultants or case managers for community driven spaces and work as a connection between community driven spaces and all City Agencies whose policies may apply in such spaces. Cultural Liaisons facilitate permitting processes and access to City programs by creatively overcoming bureaucratic hurdles, identifying liabilities and addressing legal conundrums. There needs to be confidentiality to reduce fear of retaliation.
Establish an Urgent Repairs Fund. A pool of matching funds to cover the cost of urgently needed safety maintenance work, which could make affordable the cost of simple and yet lifesaving safety measures for many community driven spaces. The fund could cover expenses for certified construction workers, electricians, plumbers, as well as architects, engineers, expediters and all sorts of other technical support.
Create and preserve much needed affordable space for all stages of independent cultural production including public programming facilities in live-work spaces. Having artists and art spaces in the same building is economically essential.
- Advocate to expand the Loft Law and repeal Chapter 147 coverage exclusions. Remove 2017 application deadline. Organize an informational campaign about the opportunity for artists living in illegally converted commercial or factory buildings to formalize their live-work space. Consider offering grants for bringing the spaces up to code.
- Appeal to landlords with tax-abatements and other incentives to promote and preserve affordable cultural facilities of all scales in all the New York City boroughs.
- Community space incubator in underused City spaces. Open up underused City-owned spaces such as school auditoriums. Designate one city-owned building in each borough to be used as a platform where artists can plug in. Intermediary nonprofits could run these facilities. This will foster underground creative communities who are doing interesting, cutting-edge work but are cut out from mainstream institutional support.
We appreciate your consideration of our recommendations and we strongly encourage the inclusion of community driven spaces in the CreateNYC priorities. We look forward to another meeting with you and your staff where we can discuss next steps and a roadmap to some easily achievable shared goals.
Thank you in advance,
NYC Artist Coalition