Andrew Tobia

Contributing Editor

Members of New York City’s independent and underground art scenes are coming together to lobby for advocacy and protections from the incoming Night Mayor.

Last night, prominent figures from art and entertainment scenes across the city held Tell NYC’s Night Mayor, the first-ever town hall meeting for the newly-formed Office of Nightlife. In the rather chaotic event which began nearly an hour late, artists, DJs and club owners discussed their hopes and expectations for New York City’s new Night Mayor (officially the Director of Nightlife) with city politicians.

“We’re seeing a cohesion of all these different spaces coming together, that were previously fractured,” said Anya Sapozhnikova of House of YES to a packed Market Hotel, a DIY music venue in Bushwick.

The event was organized by the New York Artist Coalition as part of their Save NYC Spaces campaign. Their goal is to preserve the small, informal gathering places that have defined our city’s cultural and artistic fabric throughout its history — these spaces, DIY community efforts, are increasingly at risk from predatory leasing practices and realty development.

“We can’t say artists are important and then tear down an entire waterfront of studios to build high end condos,” said Rachel Nelson of Secret Project Robot.

Joining Sapozhnikova and Nelson to deliver impassioned pleas to attending city officials were many other notables from New York’s entertainment industry including Brian Polite of JACK Performance Space and Kurtis Blow, NYC hip hop legend and chairman of the board of the Universal Hip Hop Museum. 

“People come to New York for this culture,” said Polite, directly addressing city government as a whole. “If you want things to get better, you have to do better by the rest of us. If you’re not going to help us, get out of our way.”

“I’ll let you know that I support you guys 150 percent,” added Blow. “Anything you need from hip hop, all the legends, we got your back.”

Overarching themes included protection and promotion of diversity. Topping the list were the repeal or refinement of laws such as the city’s archaic and selectively-applied Cabaret Law that prohibits dancing in public places, efforts to prevent further gentrification, and a call for advocacy for these small but culturally-significant spaces.

NYC's Cabaret Law is racist, antiquated and is pushing more community spaces underground. Repeal ?? that ?? shit

A post shared by Northside Festival (@northsidefestival) on

City officials in attendance included Bushwick and Williamsburg council members Antonio Reynoso, Stephen Levin, and Rafael Espinal, who initially put forth the Night Mayor idea.

“About nine years ago, Market Hotel was the first DIY space I walked into,” Councilman Espinal said. “When I introduced the [Office of Nightlife] bill, I stressed from the beginning that we need to bring cultural and DIY spaces out from the shadows.”

Tom Finklepearl, Commissioner of NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, and Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment also attended.

 “I want to thank the artists. You’re the heart and soul of the city, you’re the reason I moved to New York. We’re working together in a way that we’ve never been before,” Finklepearl said.

Cover image courtesy of  Market Hotel