Bill allows artists to charge for street performances
by Jacob Henry
Dec 23, 2020 | 6459 views | 0 0 comments | 799 799 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Andrew Sydor performs at an Astoria Music Collective show held outside of Shillelagh's Tavern because of the pandemic. (Photo: Miguel Hernandez)
Andrew Sydor performs at an Astoria Music Collective show held outside of Shillelagh's Tavern because of the pandemic. (Photo: Miguel Hernandez)
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer’s Open Culture bill has officially passed City Council. If signed by the mayor, it will allow artists to begin charging for outdoor performances in approved public spaces starting March 1.

Van Bramer said in a hearing on Tuesday that the legislation will help protect the future of arts and culture in New York City.

“Artists, venues and institutions, many of which are small businesses themselves, are in dire financial circumstances,” he said. “Many have closed, many more are at risk of closing, and that’s why it’s so important that we pass these bills today.”

The bill is similar to the program that allows restaurants to use sidewalks and public spaces for restaurants, only instead of tables, artists can apply for permits that will turn the streets into stages.

“It is incredibly exciting to be able to have dance, music, poetry, opera, and comedy breaking out literally all over the City of New York in the streets as the weather gets a little bit nicer,” Van Bramer said.

All artists and venues can partner with the Department of Cultural Affairs, the Borough Arts Council and other eligible organizations for permits.

The arts sector of New York has been hit hard by the pandemic, with 260,000 jobs lost over the last nine months.

Before the pandemic, 400,000 workers were employed in the arts sector, with $31 billion of income and $110 billion in economic activity.

This fell over 60 percent throughout the pandemic, with 95 percent of arts organizations being forced to cancel some programming.

One of those individuals is Miguel Hernandez, the founder of Astoria Music Collective, an organization that put on 1,000 shows ranging from acoustic acts to heavy metal bands over the last five years.

He expressed excitement that the bill passed, and was glad to hear that lawmakers were thinking about artists.

“It’s a necessary band-aid,” he said. “I’m excited about anything that puts money into our hands, because everyone really needs that right now.”

However, he wondered if the bill would be enough to fully recover the bars and live music venues lost during the pandemic.

“We’re talking about performances starting in March,” Hernandez said. “If the bars don’t get funded, then these bars aren’t going to be open."

He added that while the bill is a much-needed start, he hopes to see more of an emphasis on saving small businesses.

“We’re already looking at 50 percent of restaurants and bars in the city facing closure,” Hernandez said. “While I am happy about the bill on a personal level for myself and the artists we represent, I’m still a little bit concerned."

For the most part, Hernandez said the bill is important for the arts community and is a step in the right direction.

“I am excited about it,” he said. “I just hope it will be enough.”

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