Manhattan CBs Unanimously Endorse Tax Break Plan for Pro-Arts NYC Landlords


Per the excerpted press release, below, this is great news for the crew working so hard on this local issue:

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Manhattan Community Board 10 (Central Harlem) recently became the 12th out of 12 Manhattan Community Boards which voted (at the full board level) in support of a resolution calling on New York City and New York State elected officials to create, through legislation, a targeted property-tax abatement that would help remedy the current fiscal and real estate crises which are endangering “core” small to midsized nonprofit theaters and other nonprofit performing arts organizations throughout New York City.

In addition, this innovative proposal has earned the support of Manhattan’s Borough Board, a body chaired by Manhattan Borough President Stringer that consists of the Manhattan’s community boards and city council members, who meet monthly to discuss issues of importance facing the Borough of Manhattan….

In Manhattan, approximately 50 “core” theaters provide access to affordable performance space for over 400 small theater companies (commonly known as Off-Off B’way) and many other performing arts organizations. This community board effort seeks to incentivize landlords to offer longer leases at below market rates to these core set of venues. The entire sector depends on low cost space, which makes risk-taking and incubation of new work and new talent possible. The proposal presumes that New York City’s viability is tied to the arts and that the vitality of New York City’s entire performing arts sector is at stake.

Engaging the support of the community boards of the other four NYC boroughs is the next objective of this Manhattan community board alliance. To that end, the staffs of Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and Council Speaker Christine Quinn are assisting the cultural community (including art support agencies ART/NY, Innovative Theater Foundation and League of Independent Theater) and the Manhattan Community Boards in their efforts to connect with city resources and other contacts that will be helpful in reaching out to the other boroughs; and in the collection of information concerning those “core” theaters which will be affected by this proposal. That all the Manhattan Community Boards have been successful so far in working with each other and many of New York City’s elected officials serves as a sign that this proposal is engendering legitimate public support….

At the risk of putting a damper on everyone’s merriment, I’d like to reiterate that a single-pronged strategy to the real estate problem for the arts in New York City is as terrible an idea as the tax-break proposal itself is a brilliant one. (I do think the question of “core” theaters should be articulated more, though. Which 50 are these? Why are the names of the 50 theaters not t being touted widely, loudly and prominently? Where are they located? Who runs them? As 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit, doesn’t the public have a right to know? And how does a space get to be a “core” one? Who gets to decide? If you’re not “core,” are you screwed? I know there are answers to these questions — I’m simply saying that the answers should be out there and that all efforts are made for transparency on this issue.)

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So, again, while I endorse the tax break proposal, I also feel it should be looked upon as part of a series of first steps on what should be a larger strategy concerning spaces for the arts in New York City (and ultimately, that means more than just theater spaces, too).

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Which is to say that it pains me how certain people look upon this effort as an end to itself.

As I wrote earlier this year (to the upset of certain people):

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For all the well-earned fanfare the proposal is getting, the endorsements of multiple community boards does not mean such an incentive will be enacted. And even if such an incentive is enacted, it does not mean landlords will be obligated to bite.

Which brings me to something else that pains me: Why are certain people more hysterical about the Ohio Theatre’s closing than the impending closing of 3LD? Could that be because certain people worked at the Ohio Theatre? How can certain so-called “leaders” pretend to care about all spaces and the whole real estate problem for the arts in New York City when certain people are so obviously primarily driven by how things affect them?

After all, this proposal, if it became law, wouldn’t stop 3LD from being evicted from its space, would it?

Again, I call upon Off-Off-Broadway to develop multiple carrots and multiple sticks. And especially for certain people to stop being so defensive about being called upon to do so.

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For the record, I am not referring to David Pincus, managing director of the WorkShop Theater Company, whose work on shepherding this proposal from community board to community board should earn him an award. His efforts have been trailblazing and amazing. He is a local hero.

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