In a statement released earlier this week, New York City Council members Stephen Levin and Jimmy Van Bramer announced their proposal for a referendum to improve cultural spending, a “bill requiring the city to have a cultural plan.” By carrying out extensive assessments throughout the five boroughs, Levin and Van Bramer hope that this information could be used to better direct the City’s Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) initiatives and bring them in line with community priorities. The DCA funds independent cultural organizations in addition to 33 City-owned institutions, including the Met, MoMA PS1, and the Brooklyn Museum. It has a 2013 budget of $150 million and anticipated construction and renovation spending of $685 million over the next four years.
This is the second significant arts outreach effort undertaken by Councilman Levin in recent months, whom we interviewed in May when he announced his support for One Percent for Culture. Levin, who represents Brooklyn’s 33rd district, co-authored the proposal with Jimmy Van Bramer of the 26th District, in Queens. Both Levin and Van Bramer count among their constituencies significant numbers of artists and other creative professionals, and their respective districts contain the burgeoning gallery districts of Long Island City (Van Bramer) and Greenpoint, Williamsburg, and Dumbo (Levin).
Asked how he hopes this bill will ameliorate the city-wide policy environment for arts funding, Councilman Levin said, in an email to Hyperallergic, “There is a great need for planning around culture and the arts in New York City. Artists are struggling and there is much more our city can do for them, especially in the outer boroughs.” On how this fits into the mayoral race and prospects for artists in the post-Bloomberg era, Levin continued, “I am hopeful that this bill passes as soon as possible and that the next mayor will support a cultural plan for our City. Much work is left to be done in our city to make life easier for artists and I’m hopeful that conditions will improve under the next administration.”
Stephen Levin’s office added that they had been working on the proposal since May, and in that sense it was conceived and planned in a manner disengaged from the ongoing mayoral race, though they hope the mayoral candidates will find common cause with their proposal and the arts community at large.
The City Council referred the proposal to the Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations on August 22nd, though that body doesn’t appear to have met since early June.