New York’s First Nightlife Mayor Listening Tour Is the Bronx Next?

New York’s First Nightlife Mayor Listening Tour Is the Bronx Next?
By José Francisco Ávila

On March 7th, Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed Ariel Palitz as New York City’s first Nightlife Mayor. According to the New York Times, “In her first official act, Ariel Palitz promised to hold listening tours and entertain the gripes of those who are bothered by the vomit on their streets or the noise at 3 a.m.”

On Monday, March 26, I attended the first public discussion with New York’s first Nightlife Mayor along with City Council Member Rafael Espinal, Jr., artists, residents, voters, and small diverse spaces, which was organized by the NYC Artist Coalition!

“It’s important for the city to have a system in place where it is supporting its nightlife community, the community that actually gave the city the brand as the city that never sleeps.” said City Councilman Rafael Espinal of Brooklyn who sponsored the law that created the office of nightlife mayor.

What are the responsibilities of the Senior Executive Director of Nightlife? According to the job description published by the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, the Nightlife Mayor will implement recommendations made by a Nightlife Taskforce that will be convened to address challenges and opportunities in NYC’s nightlife industry. The Office’s aim will be to promote an economically and culturally vibrant nightlife industry, while serving the best of interests of the City and its residents. More specifically, responsibilities will also include:

Serve as an intermediary between City agencies, law enforcement, elected officials, the nightlife industry, and NYC residents; Develop and implement policies to support the health of the nighttime economy; Provide assistance with permitting, licensing, and approvals for nightlife businesses; Monitor trends, issues, and violations issued to nightlife establishments and develop methods to address issues in consultation with industry representatives, City agencies, community boards, residents, and other relevant stakeholders;

The last two points were the most common issues mentioned by the attendees, in particular anonymous 311 calls by neighbors and the interventions (commonly known as “raids”) by the Multi-Agency Response to Community Hot Spots (also known as M.A.R.C.H. by the State Liquor Authority along with New York City’s Department of Buildings (DOB), the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and NY Fire Department (FDNY), which evolved from the Koch administration’s Task Force On Safety of Social Clubs, which was increased by Mayor Dinkins after the 1990 Happy Land Social Club fire. Based on this fact, I would suggest the Bronx as the Nightlife Mayor’s next listening tour.

“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. 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 that 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.” said Council Member Rafael Espina

It is important to remember that a thriving evening and nighttime economy DOES NOT mean a bar or music venue on every corner. It means a regulated, planned and strategic offer that respects both those who want quiet and those who like to go out. Vibrant, sustainable and structured evening and nighttime economies create towns and cities for all ages, cultures, creeds and genders.

The nighttime economy is used by a wide array of residents, businesses and key stakeholders, including concert and theater goers, licensed premise owners, bar tenders, Creative Industries employees, etc. They all deserve a more formal management structure to support their activities, to promote safety and responsibility, and ensure that creating and sustaining business is as supported as possible. Exploring how to make more use of the evening and nighttime provides jobs, supports community cohesion and supports social inclusion.

New York City’s nightlife industry is a key component of the overall economy, supporting 300,000 jobs and generates over $10 billion 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.

It was really encouraging to attend New York City’s first Nightlife Mayor’s listening tour and look forward to her visit to the Bronx. 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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