The cultural spaces and venues vital to New York's identity have been decimated by the pandemic. One report from this summer estimated a 61% employment drop for workers in arts, entertainment, and recreation—more than the hotel, restaurant, movie industries. On Monday, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio both announced plans aimed at helping the industry and the workers who need it to survive.
Cuomo's plan, which he alluded to during his state of the state address last month, is a public/private initiative called NY PopsUp, which will produce 300 free events across the state in the next 100 days using "existing landscapes," according to a press release, "including iconic transit stations, parks, subway platforms, museums, skate parks, street corners, fire escapes, parking lots, storefronts, and upstate venues, transforming everyday commutes, local communities, and locations never used for performances into canvases of awe and exhilaration."
By Labor Day, the governor's office said that NY PopsUp will have thrown 1,000 events, all using state health department COVID-19 protocols, culminating with events at the Tribeca Film Festival and on "Little Island" at Pier 55.
Scott Rudin and Jane Rosenthal are charged with overseeing the programming, with the first performances occurring on February 20. (You can see a limited schedule and some of the performers here.)
Cuomo, said that NY PopsUp would be the beginning of a period of experimentation with reopening cultural venues with capacity restrictions and testing, and pointed to the success of the 7,000 fans allowed to attend a Buffalo Bills game without spreading the virus. The governor pushed up the reopening of some indoor dining in New York City to this Friday, and has said that the state will allow for 150 person weddings in March. The easing of the restrictions comes as COVID-19 positivity rates remain relatively high across the state.
"There are venues that we want to start to reopening with testing and capacity limitations," Cuomo said at a press conference. "Theaters, arenas, why can't you do it with Broadway? You can, you can."
It's unclear whether state, federal, or private funding is going into hiring the performers and the workers involved with NY PopsUp. The governor's office did not immediately respond to our request for comment.
In DUMBO, Mayor de Blasio unveiled Open Culture NYC, a permitting program that will allow institutions to hold events in city streets.
"We need our arts and culture back, and we need people to see it and feel it and participate in it," de Blasio said. "Our cultural community is our hope, and our identity as New Yorkers."
Starting on March 1st, venues and institutions can begin applying for a permit to hold "socially distanced performances at over 100 street locations throughout all five boroughs." The application fee is $20, and permits must be submitted at least 15 days before the event itself. State regulations currently allow a maximum capacity of 50 people.
The mayor also unveiled "Curtains Up NYC," designed to help connect local cultural institutions to federal grants of up to $10 million.