I am a born and bred Bay Ridgeite involved with several grassroots organizations that are involved with sharing culture, history, arts (all forms) and preservation of our built and natural environment. This past year has been more than challenging, as so many have lost so much, including what has become a benefit of being a New Yorker: the opportunity to enjoy arts and cultural gifts in every corner of our city.
With the hope of spring and increase in vaccine distribution, many of us are looking for ways to once again offer performances and cultural events in safe ways. However, we are not out of the woods yet, as parades, Summer Strolls, street fairs and other large gatherings have to be canceled this upcoming spring.
I have been trying to think outside the box to find ways to offer arts and cultural activities safely. Can we use outdoor spaces with limited seats to hold a concert? What about offering walking tours? For example, I am working with others to find substitutes for the Norwegian Day Parade where we can still share and celebrate our culture. What about an outdoor lecture and outdoor film for children?
So, when the mayor announced the city’s “Open Culture” program in February, I was excited. Upon further investigation, I realized that the streets have already been designated and fixed. In Brooklyn they are mostly located in the northern, downtown and Park Slope areas, which have each received multiple streets. Bay Ridge has been totally skipped over, which is a shame as we have so much open parkland. And we are not the only community excluded from this benefit.
So, what to do? Fuggedaboutit? Never. The city could still extend its list to include a street from each Brooklyn community. However, this exclusion is indicative of a larger and more pervasive issue. It is time that NYC, the place known as the cultural capital of the U.S., supports the arts throughout all of the city, to all of its constituents. People make art and create culture. This is not predicated by your ZIP code. Let’s distribute funding for the arts fairly, which means equal funding and opportunities for all communities in our city.
Bay Ridge Arts & Cultural Alliance, founder and president
Bay Ridge Conservancy, founder and president
Scandinavian East Coast Museum, founder and president
The Ridge Creative Center, creator and executive director