Mayor Announces Guidelines for Upcoming Open Culture Program

Mayor Bill de Blasio. Image credit: CityLand

The newly announced program and its guidelines will allow artists and performers of all kinds to return to work safely. On February 8, 2021, Mayor de Blasio released guidelines for the upcoming Open Culture Program. The program will open up city streets for outdoor cultural performances and events throughout the five boroughs. The new program is modeled after a prior successful initiative lead by the city, the Open Streets Program. For CityLand’s prior coverage about the Open Culture Program, click here.

The new Open Culture permit type will allow for ticketed performances, rehearsals, classes, and workshops. Art and cultural institutions as well as entertainment venues may secure a permit for a single day to hold socially distanced performances at one of over 100 different street locations throughout the five boroughs. The program aims to provide much needed revenue and recovery to the arts and entertainment business and providing citizens with new activities and experiences.

Applications will be available through the Mayor’s Street Activity Permit Office to eligible organizations on March 1, 2021 and will extend through October 31, 2021. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis beginning on March 1, 2021. For safety purposes, organizations must adhere to strict COVID-19 guidelines in order to hold their event. The guidelines cover a wide range of topics including location, emergency access, sanitation, sound, insurance, prohibited elements, enforcement, and more. Some examples of the enforced guidelines are as follows:

  • Organizations must apply with any applicable COVID-19 requirements on outdoor events or gatherings as per local, state, and federal guidelines.
  • Organizations must place limitations on crowding.
  • Applicants must submit a COVID-19 Safety Affirmation Plan.
  • Events are subject to capacity limits and cancellation due to potential changes in laws and guidelines.
  • Emergency lanes must be provided with no obstruction.
  • Five-foot pedestrian egress must be provided at all times on sidewalks.
  • Security and closure of the street is the responsibility of the permittee and must obtain appropriate signage from the New York Police Department in advance of the event.
  • Permittees are responsible for the cleanup and sanitation of the event space. Applicants must submit a site plan in advance.

Complete guidelines for applications are available on the Mayor’s Street Activity Permit Office website. Failure to follow the guidelines can result in the denial of future Street Activity Permit Office Applications and other penalties.

Applications may be submitted through E-Apply. An account is required to apply as well as a $25.50 non-refundable processing fee.

Eligible organizations include arts and culture institutions, including members of the Cultural Institutions Group, recipients of the Cultural Development Fund, recipients of borough arts council funding, and other similar groups; and cultural and performance venues, including facilities designed for entertainment and performance purposes in front of live audiences including concert venues, theatres, and other similar establishments.

Mayor Bill de Blasio stated, “From Open Streets, to Open Restaurants, to Open Culture, New York City has found creative and sustainable ways to connect New Yorkers to their neighborhoods while staying safe from COVID-19. I’m honored to support the cultural institutions who make our city great, and I can’t wait to see our creative community in action.”

Cultural Affairs Commissioner Gonzalo Casals stated, “The pandemic has hit the cultural community hard, particularly the performing arts sector which thrives on live, in person experiences. With Open Culture, we’re thrilled to raise the curtain on dozens of streets across the city as new sites for culture, community, and engagement, and we look forward to seeing our artists and cultural groups bring them to life later this spring.”

Lili Chopra, Executive Director, Artistic Programs, LMCC stated, “Open Culture is an incredible initiative that gives back in the spirit of creative, civic and economic sustainability. In this difficult time, artists have not stopped creating, even in their homes or online, and this initiative provides much needed opportunities to restore both city life and artists’ careers, allowing the work to finally be shared again with New Yorkers.”

By: Patrick McNeill (Patrick is the CityLaw intern and a New York Law School student, Class of 2022.)


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