Protesters calling for defunding the police during a rally in Brooklyn, New York in June of 2020 (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)

New York City’s new budget, approved yesterday, July 1, will slash the city’s budget for arts and culture by 11% in fiscal year 2021. The city’s education department will suffer a nearly 30% cut of art education programs ($15 million compared to $21.5 million last year). Also, the New York Police Department (NYPD) will see a reduction of $1 billion from its $6 billion budget, a move that failed to satisfy the demands of advocates for defunding the police.

Facing a $9 billion loss in tax revenues due to the COVID-19 shutdown, the city has cut allocations across all departments, reducing its total budget by more than $1.1 billion, down to about $88.1 billion.

In the fiscal year 2020, the city allocated a record $212 million budget to its Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA), which is the largest in the country. The adopted budget will reduce that amount to $189 million, a big blow to many small arts organizations but a relatively mild cut compared to a previous proposal to slash 35% of the cultural budget.

In April, the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable launched a public campaign Arts Are Essential to advocate against the then-proposed budget cuts. The group enlisted a lineup of celebrities for the cause, including actor Alec Baldwin and the original cast of Hamilton. Ultimately, the campaign did not prevent the city from reducing budgets from various arts and culture initiatives, from after-school art programs to cultural programs for immigrants.

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it’s nice to see white accomplices showing up like this. RePosted & 📸 by @mikeschwarzthekid from Monday or Tuesday morning Original post: On-the-ground account of what happened @ City Hall: hundreds of New York City riot police began assembling outside of City Hall around 3am Monday morning. Protesters had taken over Chambers and Centre Street – building barricades, and blocking off traffic. – – – After a nearly 2.5 hour stand off, the police moved into the expanded autonomous zone around 530am – ripping down fencing, and pushing demonstrators back to the park. “If you do not leave the street voluntarily, you will be arrested and charged with disorderly conduct” blared over a loud speaker strapped to the back of a lieutenant. – – – Organizers instructed demonstrators to get on the sidewalk, where legally they would be protected. The police remained in the street for nearly 15 min, staring at protestors, and blasting the recording. The protesters responded by chanting “We’re on the sidewalk!” – – – Soon after, the lieutenant switched the recording to “If you do not leave the SIDEWALK and disperse, you will be arrested, and charged with disorderly conduct. The demonstrators held their ground, screaming back at police, holding protective umbrellas high. – – – A few seconds later, the police charged forward – smashing into a line of makeshift wooden and plastic protest shields. The demonstrators were relentless, but stood no chance against 200+ officers in full riot gear. After a viscous struggle, the remaining fencing was removed and disposed of. Now, protesters and police stood face to face – nothing between them. – – – Front line demonstrators held their ground, screaming obscenities, ready for whatever came next. Police began to advance, ripping umbrellas + shields out of demonstrators hands. Just as the situation seemed to be escalating again, the police cheif stepped in, ordering his men to stand down. After securing the intersection, police left the park, allowing demonstrators to repair the camp and treat their injuries

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Yesterday, as the new budget was being announced, NYPD forces clashed with Occupy City Hall and #DefundNYPD protesters, who have been camping outside City Hall for more than a week. Some critics of the reduced NYPD budget have called it insufficient while others dismissed it as mere cosmetics; among them is Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

“Defunding police means defunding police,” the congresswoman said in a statement. “It does not mean budget tricks or funny math. It does not mean moving school police officers from the NYPD budget to the Department of Education’s budget so the exact same police remain in schools.”

New York is not the only city to slash its arts and culture budget amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In Philadelphia, the city has cut the arts budget by 40% and completely eliminated its Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy. Originally, Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenny had suggested eliminating the city’s $4.4 million arts allocation entirely.

Local arts and culture organizations in Philadelphia have been campaigning against these cuts for more than two months. Speaking with Hyperallergic in May, Christina Vassallo, the executive director of the city’s Fabric Workshop and Museum, warned that Kenny’s move would cause the shuttering of many small local arts organizations.

“For so many of these organizations, city funding is what keeps them going,” Vassallo said. “Once you allow a culture and arts office to dissolve in a city, it’s nearly impossible to get it back. The political will that is required to create that is immense.”

Correction 7/3/2020 4:06pm: An earlier version of this article misstated that the arts education budget was cut by 70%. It has been updated to clarify that the 2021 fiscal year budget for arts education is 70% of its previous year’s budget.

Hakim Bishara is a Senior Editor at Hyperallergic. He is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital Arts Writers Grant and he holds an MFA in Art Writing from the School of Visual...