By Bill Parry
The majority leader of the City Council is calling on the arts community to rally against President Donald Trump and his proposed budget cuts to the arts and humanities.
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) is organizing a protest on the steps of City Hall April 3 to send a message to the White House that Trump’s blatant disregard for the importance of the arts has no place in New York City or the country.
“President Trump’s proposed budget is an unprecedented and vicious assault on the arts and the humanities,” Van Bramer said. “In order to fund policies based in fear and hate, President Trump has proposed cutting $148 million from the National Endowment for the Arts, $230 million from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, $148 million from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and $445 million from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting — eliminating these agencies and endowments entirely. As it stands, the NEA only makes up a meager 0.0037 percent of the current federal budget and through its work, generates over $4 billion in revenue in our city alone.”
He pointed out that “as the leading cultural capital of the world, New York City would bear the brunt of these cuts and our world class museums, libraries, and performing arts centers as well as the educational programs they provide to our children would be under grave threat.”
City Comptroller Scott Stringer warned last week that cuts to the NEA would cost the city thousands of jobs. As the chairman of the City Council’s Committee on Cultural Affairs and Libraries, Van Bramer is prepared to make a stand.
“This budget calls into question the role of art and the humanities — should they exist and do they have a place in our society? President Trump answered this question loud and clear,” Van Bramer said. “He has demonstrated a fundamental disregard for our nation’s artists, our children who grow and learn through the arts, and to all of us who have experienced the joy and power of the arts and humanities. This proposal, if enacted, would destroy so much of what we value as a society.”
Van Bramer has been a vocal critic of President Trump. In November, he hosted a community meeting that drew more than 700 constituents to hear from social justice and civil rights organizations and he led more than 1,000 protesters in a march across the Queensboro Bride to Trump Tower.
That same week, Van Bramer received a homophobic death threat that the NYPD’s Hate Crimes Task Force is still investigating. In January, Van Bramer fired off a letter to Trump himself expounding on the economic impact budget cuts to the arts would have on the city.
“I will fight these cuts at every stage of the budget process,” Van Bramer said. “In the coming months, we will organize and rally to support the arts and humanities, and we will not retreat from this fight.”
After the rally, participants will be invited to testify at a Council hearing in support of Van Bramer’s resolution calling on the president to fully fund the arts, culture, and libraries.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr