The League of Independent Theater (LIT) in New York City presents a Meet the Candidates forum livestreaming on the global, commons-based peer-produced HowlRound TV network at howlround.tv Wednesday, March 15 at 7:00 p.m. EDT (New York) / 6:00 p.m. CDT (Chicago) / 4:00 p.m. PDT (Los Angeles).

The forum will host over a dozen candidates running for various city-wide offices in the 2017 election. A moderator will ask questions relating to the LIT’s platform, and there will be time afterward for meeting the candidates directly. 

LIT’s Meet the Candidates forum brings together sixteen candidates for New York City council and theatre artists to discuss key community issues such as sustainable rehearsal and performance space, housing, and healthcare. These issues are the backbone of LIT’s performing arts platform, which is detailed here: https://www.litny.org/performing-arts-platform.

The event will begin with a keynote from Julie Menin, Commissioner of New York City Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment.

"This is the biggest moment in the political cycle for artists and activists to ask questions and get direct answers from our city leaders," Guy Yedwab, Managing Director of Operations said. "Facing the loss of our working and living space, healthcare, federal funding for the arts, and public housing, the Independent Theater constituency has many questions about the future of the arts in New York City.”

The League of Independent Theater is the only 501(c)6 organization for the independent theater and performing arts population of New York City, serving the interests of many thousands of independent performing artists, 86% of whom vote regularly.

Following the forum LIT’s membership will meet and decide which candidates to endorse, also running a "Get Out The Vote" effort in the performing arts community. LIT hosted a similar forum in 2013 which resulted in the endorsement of ten candidates who successfully won their races.

Since that time, LIT has worked with those community leaders, as well as others already in office, to advance its platform. “The 2017 Meet the Candidates forum promises to continue this upward momentum,” Yedwab explained, “and is a key opportunity for artists and politicians to listen to make New York City a more sustainable environment for citizens, artists, and audiences.”

Keynote: Julie Menin, Commissioner of New York City Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment

Scott Stringer, Comptroller of the City of New York

 

Panel 1

Aaron Foldenauer (District 1)
Christopher Marte (District 1)
Erin Hussein (District 2)
Carlina Rivera (District 2)
Jasmin Sanchez (District 2)
Mary Silver (District 2)

Questions: 

1. Our first question will focus on real estate. In particular space to rehearse and perform. It is the number one concern for our members. Space before funding is our motto. As one of the League’s founding members and Obie-winner John Clancy would say, “When we have space, we make work happen.” Real estate is the highest budget item for productions. Despite the rising costs for space rental, around 100 indie theater venues in NYC have closed since 2000.

Candidates, please address one of the first three planks of our Performing Arts Platform. They cover access to potential rehearsal and performance space, exchange programs to get space, and the creation and preservation of current spaces. What would you do, if elected, to take tangible positive steps to achieve these proposals? 

2. Bohemia is dead. There is a Whole Foods four blocks from here. The Starbucks at 47th and 9th was priced out of Hell’s Kitchen. There will not be a New York International Fringe Festival for the first time in two decades. On Monday, the Greenwich Village Society for Historical Preservation and the Villager reported Mayor De Blasio’s plan to create a giant tech hub on 14th Street where the PC Richards and Sons currently sits as an anchor for the proposed “Silicon Alley” between Astor Place and Union Square. This tech hub would be down the block from where the Palladium, which once was a 3,000 seat concert venue and is now an NYU dorm. (U2, KISS, Diddy, Li’l Kim, the Clash, Patti Smith, the Ramones, Ozzy and more played there.) It is also around the corner from where the Union Square Theate, which is being demolished for office and retail space. While the city must do things to progress, create good jobs, AND look out for the indigent and at-risk populations, how do you make the case to your colleagues and constituents that the under-funded and the mostly not famous indie theater artists need to have living and working conditions that make it only moderately impossible and not completely impossible to live and create art here?

 

Panel 2

Jeffrey Mailman (District 4)
Marti Speranza (District 4)
Edward Santos (District 8)
Arden Walentowski (District 10)
John Joseph Joyner Jr. (District 36)
Kathleen Daniel (District 41)

Questions:

1. The first topic for this panel is the cycle of gentrification. There is good and there is bad to gentrification. When indie theater comes to an area, restaurants do well, bars do well, and the increased foot traffic can help make safer public streets. We also create tensions and push people out of the area. The cycle of gentrification is complete when the creative class is priced out of the area. Two-part question: What can indie theater people do to be good citizens when they move into an area and what can YOU do to help us stay and be vibrant parts of the diversity in your districts?

2. The second topic for this panel relates to Planks 5 and 10, which cover housing and the creation cultural districts. In 2014, El Barrio’s Artspace PS109, a community-driven project which took an abandoned public school building in East Harlem and made it an arts facility with 89 units of affordable live/work housing for artists and their families, and 10,000 square feet of complementary space for arts organizations. Last week, Governor Cuomo announced a proposed $1.4 billion “Vital Brooklyn” project in Central Brooklyn to get more affordable housing, parks, and athletic fields. No mention of anything arts related in that proposal.

 

Panel 3

Councilmember Costa Contantinides (District 22)
Jabari Brisport (District 35)
Councilmember Laurie Cumbo (District 35)
Khader El-Yateem (District 43)
John Quaglione (District 43)

Questions: 

1. Everyone knows the song “No Sleep til Brooklyn.” I believe we can sleep now because Brooklyn-ification is everywhere. If I go into one more bar full of reclaimed wood and craft beer, I will lose my mind. Brooklyn is a label given to things that are artistic or artisanal and high quality. Has Brooklyn left us behind? Is it too late? How can anything at our level grow in the shadow of Barclay’s Center and other huge developments in Brooklyn?

2. Which arts organizations and indie theater anchor venues in your district would you add to the Cultural Institutions Group? Or, what would look for in groups or venues to determine who you think should make that cut?

…PLUS, all candidates were asked the following “lighting round” questions:

Raise your hands if…

• You are willing to be a co-sponsor to Ben Kallos’s CitySpaces initiative to create a searchable database of unused or under-utilized city-owned spaces.

• You will clearly and visibly list your stances on issues facing indie theater and performing arts on your campaign’s website and literature.

• You support campaign finance reform and getting money from PACS, Super PACS or special interests out of political campaigns at all levels.

• You commit to covering the gap created if there are cuts on a federal level to the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

• You support a path to citizenship for artists who come to this country to perform or work on indie theater productions.

• You support the efforts by New Yorkers for Culture & Arts in getting parity in the NYC Cultural Plan between our Cultural Institutions Group and Cultural Development Funds

• You support the expansion of the Cultural Institutions Group to include independent theater anchor venues.  

• You support the promotion of indie theater to the more than 61 million visitors coming to New York City each year.

• You promise to see at least 3 indie theater productions before the elections.

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