Put 1% of city budget to cultural groups: Van Bramer

Photo by Rebecca Henely
By Rebecca Henely

At MoMA PS1, one of Long Island City’s several artistic meccas, City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) announced Tuesday that he and 245 organizations were calling upon the city to increase funding to arts and cultural institutions.

The campaign, called “One Percent for Culture,” is made up of artists, cultural institutions, civic groups and businesses across all five boroughs who want to see New York City dedicate 1 percent of its budget to funding art and cultural institutions. The city currently allocates about a quarter of 1 percent to arts funding, Van Bramer said.

One Percent for Culture, which was launched in the Bronx in 2010, argues that arts are an economic generator and a driver of tourism for the city, and that in the economic downturn finding private funding has become more difficult.

“The economy of the city of New York could not stand without culture and the arts,” Van Bramer said.

The councilman made public his support for the coalition at MoMA PS1. Located at 22-25 Jackson Ave. in Long Island City, the former school has become the premier contemporary art museum in the neighborhood.

About 100,000 New Yorkers are employed throughout the arts industry, Van Bramer said, and 100 million people attend arts and cultural institutions throughout the city. Many of this number are tourists, and the city is experiencing a tourism boom, with 52 million visitors last year generating $70 billion. Of that number, 24 million tourists come to the city’s more than 1,200 art institutions and generate $7.6 billion, Van Bramer said.

“We have people who travel from all over the world to come here and take advantage of these cultural institutions,” said Eric Pryor, executive director of the Manhattan-based nonprofit the Center for Arts Education.

Van Bramer, who chairs the Council’s Cultural Affairs Committee, said the cultural institutions are one of the few sectors of the city budget which do generate revenue. He said public capital investments in the arts, such as the renovations to Astoria’s Museum of the Moving Image, which were completed in 2011, can lead to an increased interest in the institution.

He also said the institutions act as a lightning rod for the private businesses around them, such as restaurants and hotels.

“If we decrease funding in culture and the arts, we will decrease revenue in the city budget,” Van Bramer said.

Klaus Bisenbach, director of MoMA PS 1, said art institutions would benefit from increased funding.

“I think what the city is doing now is a great basis, but like Jimmy pointed out it has to go further,” he said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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