Ariel Palitz, the city’s first-ever nightlife mayor, took the stage in Bushwick Monday for an open mic night, of sorts — and the crowd of more than 100 club owners, artists and community members had a lot to say.
Palitz, 47, opened the floor to the NYC Artist Coalition, which packed the club Secret Project Robot, and promised to take their thoughts and concerns straight to the mayor. Palitz said she knows their challenges firsthand, citing her experience as the owner of the Manhattan club Sutra and tenure on Manhattan Community Board 3.
“It is in my heart and it is always what I’ve felt I wanted to protect and serve,” she said.
The City Council created the position of nightlife mayor and the nightlife advisory board last year to give artists and club owners a voice at City Hall.
The subject of rents and regulations for DIY clubs and concert halls was the biggest point of emphasis Monday night. Clubs and bars in the outer boroughs, such as Bar Sepia in Prospect Heights, have struggled to keep up with rising costs and threats of development. Owners urged Palitz to push for rent control.
“I want [you] to work to preserve our neighborhoods. Without our businesses and cultural institutions, we are nothing,” Delissa Reynolds, Bar Sepia’s former owner, said.
Rachel Nelson, the co-founder of Secret Project Robot, asked the nightlife mayor to make the city’s inspection and club regulatory process more transparent. Too many times, she said, a club will be temporarily closed because of issues found during inspections by the NYPD Multi-Agency Response to Community Hotspots, or MARCH, initiative. Some club owners said they’ve had MARCH inspections take place without warning in the middle of the night during their busy hours.
“For me the thing is, where do you go before you get MARCHed?” she asked.
Palitz agreed the city needs to work harder on resolving these issues, and urged New Yorkers to keep contacting her office.
“I think every single concern is why the Office of Nightlife was created. It is the missing link,” she said. “We have a lot of talking to do.”
City Councilman Rafael Espinal, who spearheaded the creation of the office, said he has felt more optimistic about the DIY scene in recent months.
In November, after years of pleas from club owners and patrons, the city voted to dissolve the nearly 100-year-old cabaret laws that prohibited venues from allowing dancing without a city permit.
The City Council will now choose eight people and the mayor will choose four to make up the advisory board who will report to Palitz, the mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, and the council’s Committee on Consumer Affairs. They will conduct more town hall meetings in the five boroughs and submit a report to the committee and the mayor that will detail recommendations that the city could make to improve the industry.
“The government has not been a friend for a very long time and by creating this office, we will start to be one,” Espinal said.