City Council Passes Two Bills Aimed to Help Cultural Sector Access Public Spaces

Image credit: New York City Council.

The program follows the concept of the Open Restaurants program. On December 10, 2020, the City Council passed two bills designed to provide arts and cultural institutions across the city with more access to public spaces in response to the damage to the City’s cultural sector because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Int. 2068-A requires the City to establish an “Open Culture” program to allow eligible cultural and art institutions and venues to use approved open public street space for cultural events. The program will be run by the Mayor’s Office of Citywide Event Coordination and Management and be in consultation with the Department of Transportation, the Department of Buildings, the Fire Department, the NYPD, and other agencies. 

There is a $20 application fee for the program to cover administrative costs. The program would be established by March 1, 2021 and be in effect until October 31, 2021 with the possibility of an extension up to March 31, 2021. The Department of Transportation will release a list of eligible public spaces by February 1, 2021.

This bill was sponsored by Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, and follows the concept of the “Open Restaurants” program that expanded outdoor dining to provide a lifeline for restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Council Member Van Bramer stated, Arts and culture are the lifeblood of our City. With the new Open Culture program, artists and art groups can start staging performances – and charge for them – starting March 1. There will be dancing, singing & comedy on the streets bringing joy and jobs to thousands. We need to use our City’s space in new and creative ways to make sure the cultural community can perform and create. This new law will be a dynamic and transformative program for our cultural community and will create a dynamic open space use – a true win-win.“

Int. 2034-A requires the establishment of a website to provide information on open spaces designated by the city for arts and cultural programming. The open spaces can include roadways, parks and pedestrian plazas. The website would allow users to search for open spaces on a map and look up information about outdoor arts and cultural events offered by cultural institutions in coordination with the Mayor’s Office of Citywide Event Coordination and Management. Information would also be provided about other events hosted by cultural institutions on private property. 

The website would be maintained by the Mayor’s Office of Citywide Event Coordination and Management and in consultation with the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Department of Cultural Affairs, and the Department of Information, Technology and Telecommunications. Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo sponsored the bill.

Majority Leader Cumbo stated, “Prior to COVID-19, the cultural sector in NYC was one of the largest industries in NYC, employing nearly 400,000 workers, paying them $31 billion in wages, and generating $110 billion in economic activity. In merely seven months, employment within this sector has fallen over 60%, with 95% of organizations being forced to cancel some programming. The passage of Intro 2034 is symbolic of our city’s commitment to innovation in the face of a “new normal.” I look forward to seeing how open spaces are utilized by our cultural sector in the near future with use of this newly designed website.”


By: Veronica Rose (Veronica is the CityLaw fellow and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2018.)


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.