Mayor’s ‘Summer of New York City’ to get added color with introduction of New Deal-style arts program

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Mayor Bill de Blasio introduced the New York City Creative Artists Corps on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (File photo via Flickr/nycmayorsoffice)

What’s old is new again when it comes to the post-pandemic comeback of New York City.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s roll out of his “Summer of New York City” vision continued Thursday with a public arts campaign that harkens back to one of FDR’s most artistic New Deal programs. 

The New York City Artist Corps, a new city funded arts program, will employ 1,500 artists throughout the five boroughs to create pop-up shows and public artwork, the mayor announced during his daily press briefing on May 6.

The city will fund the program, an echo of the Works Progress Administration, to the tune of $25 million, according to the mayor. 

“We want to give artists opportunity,” de Blasio said. “There are so many people who lost their jobs and need any opportunity they can get.”

Nearly two-thirds of the city’s arts and culture workforce saw their income disappear completely during the pandemic, according to a February report from State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. And though the Artist Corps aims to put money back into the pockets of artists and art workers, it also looks to inspire New Yorkers and bring some color to the city’s recovery. 

“We’re not only making a fiscal investment; we’re investing in our hope, we’re investing in our beauty,” said Brooklyn City Councilman Robert Cornegy. 

Though the details of the program are still only being outlined, the potential infusion of cash into the city’s art world was celebrated by cultural leaders throughout New York on Thursday. 

“This is not only going to be the ‘Summer of New York City,’ but it’s going to be the ‘Summer of the Arts,’” said Gonzalo Casals, the commissioner of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. 

Sade Lythcott, the CEO of The National Black Theatre, noted the often overlooked efforts and effect of the city’s artistic workforce. 

“The stories [artists] courageously tell on behalf of all of us is essential labor,” Lythcott said. “Today, the Creative Artist Corp marks a long and steady walk out of the darkness toward the light of a new day.”

Summer violence looms

NYPD Chief of Patrol Juanita HolmesNYC Mayoral Photography Unit

An essential part of de Blasio’s “Summer of New York City” vision includes a reduction in gun violence, which has seen a steady increase since the start of the pandemic. 

On Wednesday, the NYPD released its April crime numbers, which showed a staggering 30% rise in the overall crime index and, most alarmingly, a 166% rise in shooting incidents when compared to April 2020. 

However, as shooting incidents rose, so too have the number of gun arrests – though not nearly at the same clip as the rise of shootings. Last month, the NYPD made 223 gun arrests citywide, a 3.7% increase compared to April 2020. 

Despite the increase in shootings, Hizzoner refrained from painting the city as one descending into chaos. 

“There’s a very small number of people committing the acts of violence,” he said. “It’s a few thousand people who cause the most problems.”

As part of their efforts, de Blasio and NYPD Chief of Patrol Juanita Holmes laid out a plan Thursday to get guns off the street through precision policing, the expansion of the shot spotter program, the reallocation of 200 officers on administrative duty to patrol roles and other programs. 

“It should have a tremendous impact on crimes in our city,” Holmes said.

For the naysayers – including Governor Andrew Cuomo, who de Blasio admonished Thursday for scaring New Yorkers away from the subway system – the mayor had one message. 

“Anyone who doesn’t believe in New York, you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about,” the mayor said. “We have a secret ingredient and it’s called New Yorkers. So get ready for the greatest comeback in history.”