New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl released Wednesday what they dubbed the city’s first-ever comprehensive culture plan. Enfolded in a glossy, 175-page manifesto called CreateNYC, the ambitious, 10-year plan addresses issues ranging from increasing access to arts and culture programing to the farthest reaches of the five boroughs to making the upper ranks of New York cultural institutions more reflective of the city’s multiethnic, multicultural population.

The city says it will increase aid to individual artists, most of whom are being driven out by skyrocketing housing costs. According to the report, 75 percent of New York City artists support themselves with outside income, and nearly half can’t afford supplies.

de Blasio
Erik Pendzich/REX/Shutterstock

New money and resources would also go to train more minority applicants for high-level cultural jobs and make access to cultural institutions easier for people with disabilities. Significantly, the plan rests on a promise to bring arts and culture initiatives to underserved areas at a distance from the highest-priced commercial corridors such as the Broadway theater district and Fifth Avenue’s Museum Mile.

Finkelpearl, de Blasio said in remarks presenting the plan, has been “a strong protagonist of the notion of seeing culture in the city as a five-borough thing and not as something primarily focused on Manhattan. And he was very passionate about that…I see folks here representing each borough and I know there’s been frustration for a long time…a lot of organizations that feel there wasn’t equality of treatment based on geography even though the vast majority of New Yorkers live in the outer boroughs. So this was another part of this plan, to say, hey, culture takes many forms, it has to reach people where they live.”

The plan includes few specific budgetary details, although it reassures such top-tier institutions as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Public Theater of continued support even as new financial resources are promised for neighborhood groups. However, the plan also sets budget-related goals for diversifying the typically white, male ranks of artistic and fiduciary management, from boards of directors to curatorial and creative staff. That serves as a warning to the top-tier institutions to expand opportunities or face pushback in years to come from city management.

Read the plan here.

Issue areas, each of which is addressed by an individual chapter of the plan include:

– Equity and Inclusion
– Social and Economic Impact
– Affordability
– Neighborhood Character
– Arts, Culture, and Science Education
– Arts and Culture in Public Space
– Citywide Coordination
– Health of the Cultural Sector
– Artists in New York City

The plan spells out immediate, interim and long-term goals that extend a decade or more into the future. It comes at a time when the Mayor is running for re-election and shoring up his support among voters who identify as liberal-to-progressive and who are among the biggest supporters of cultural organizations.

“This is a city of unmatched cultural richness that expresses itself on sidewalks, in storefronts, in museums, theaters and parks in every single corner of the five boroughs,” the Mayor said, announcing CreateNYC at a press conference Wednesday in Queens. “New York City is the world capital of art and culture. If we are going to continue to live up to that title we must use every tool we have to ensure that every resident, in every neighborhood, has the same access to cultural opportunities. CreateNYC is the first comprehensive roadmap to lifting up arts and culture across the city – now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work.”

CreateNYC is the result of Local Law 46 of 2015 sponsored by City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer and Council Member Steve Levin and signed by de Blasio in May 2015. The city recently increased its annual culture budget to over $188 million. (For the sake of comparison, the entire federal allocation to cultural funding, through the threatened National Endowment for the Arts, is $150 million.)

“We are proud to be the largest local funder of art and culture in America,” said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl.  “With CreateNYC in hand, we can make sure that our investments in this singular asset help to address concerns, opportunities, hopes, and priorities that residents voiced loud and clear. Getting out to communities in all five boroughs for CreateNYC has been a transformative experience for my agency…We have our marching orders from the residents of this great city. Now it’s time to get back to work.”

“The creative sector is a vital part of our city’s identity and economy,” said Media and Entertainment Commissioner Julie Menin. “I applaud the release of this timely report, and the valuable insights and feedback it provides from city residents about how much they value a flourishing arts scene. It has never been more important to expand both access to the city’s amazing cultural offerings, and opportunities for more New Yorkers to work in the creative fields.”