Opinion: New York City’s Office of Nightlife and the Night Mayor

New York City’s Office of Nightlife and the Night Mayor

By José Francisco Ávila

On March 8, 2017, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Media and Entertainment Commissioner Julie Menin announced the results of the first-ever economic impact study of New York City’s music industry. The study was conducted by Boston Consulting Group. According to the report, The four key pillars of New York City’s music ecosystem – local artist communities, mass music consumption, the global record business, and infrastructure and support services – are directly responsible for approximately 31,400 jobs, $2.8 billion in wages, and $13.7 billion in economic output.

However, the city’s local artist communities – composed of musicians, small venues, collaborations spaces, and music education institutions – are most vulnerable to economic trends. Smaller venues are the incubators of talent, and the report found that over 20 percent of these venues have closed in the past 15 years. The reasons for these closures – the rising real estate prices, zoning pressures, increasing operating costs and financial risks, noise complaints, and licensing problems that small venue owners face – are, if anything, more acute and more worrisome today. This presents a potential problem for maintaining a thriving artist community, and NYC as the destination of choice for up and coming artists. [1]

Many of the venues were victims of the crackdown by the Task Force On Safety of Social Clubs after the Happy Land Social Club fire. [2] The fire was an arson fire that killed 87 people trapped in an unlicensed social club named “Happy Land”, in the Bronx on March 25, 1990. Most of the victims were young Garifuna Americans. Almost three decades since the tragic fire, Garifuna nightlife stakeholders continue to deal with clubs with violations of buildings and fire codes, permitting, licensing, and approvals for nightlife businesses. However, the new Office of Nightlife will aim e to promote an economically and culturally vibrant nightlife industry, while serving the best of interests of the City and its residents.

On September 2017, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation, Introduction 1688, to create the Office of Nightlife. The office and the soon-to-be hired ‘Nightlife Mayor’ will serve as a central point of contact between City agencies, the nightlife industry, and city residents, promoting a safe and vibrant nightlife scene beneficial to businesses and residents across the five boroughs. [3]

The legislation established a Nightlife Advisory Board and an Office of Nightlife. The Nightlife Advisory Board consists of 12 members, eight of whom are to be appointed by the Council and four by the Mayor. [4]

The Board will evaluate New York City laws, rules, regulations and policies on an ongoing basis to make findings and recommendations that address common issues and trends in the nightlife industry. The recommendations of the Board are due within 18 months of the effective date of the bill.

After such date, the Board may submit recommendations to the Mayor and the Council as appropriate. The Office of Nightlife will conduct outreach, review information on complaints and violations, and serve as a liaison between nightlife establishments, residents, and government.

The Office of Nightlife will also assist nightlife establishments navigate city licensing requirements, permits, or other approvals. The Office will advise the Mayor and various agencies on trends in the nightlife industry, as well as make policy recommendations on an ongoing basis. These recommendations are to be included in an annual report on its activities, the first of which is due 18 months after the effective date of the law.

The city’s nightlife industry is a key component of the overall economy, supporting 300,000 jobs and generating billions of dollars in economic benefits. With the creation of the Office of Nightlife, New York City joins more than 30 major cities around the world — including London, Paris, Berlin and Amsterdam – that have established similar models and experienced extremely positive outcomes from a healthier nighttime economy.

“Nightlife is part of the soul of our city. The musicians, artists and entrepreneurs that make up this community are crucial not only to our culture, but our economy,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “I am thrilled to launch our new Office of Nightlife which will help coordinate the businesses, communities and City agencies to help New York City’s nightlife industry prosper safely and ensure it works for all New Yorkers.”

“NYC’s nightlife is an integral part of our cultural identity, yet bureaucratic red tape, rising rents and lack of community planning has made it increasingly difficult for venues to stay in business,” said Council Member Rafael Espinal who sponsored the Bill. “The Office of Nightlife will create a space where all stakeholders can come together to solve conflicts and build bridges. From local communities who deserve a decent quality of life, to businesses who are trying to do the right thing, this Office and Advisory Board will be there. These steps will create the opportunity for the city to stop bleeding out cultural spaces, and creatives while supporting our businesses.”

As a Garifuna owned Entertainment Company, member of NY Is Music, we have assumed the responsibility of advocating on behalf of the Garifuna local artist community and the Garifuna Nightlife Industry Stakeholders. We have a vested interest to be directly involved in coordinating the Night Time Economy strategy, by collaborating with the Nightlife Taskforce to address challenges and opportunities in NYC’s nightlife industry..All with the aim to promote an economically and culturally vibrant nightlife industry, while serving the best of interests of the City and its residents.

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