- The City’s first comprehensive cultural plan, CreateNYC, was launched in 2017. This roadmap is harnessing the city’s cultural talent to solve long standing urban problems, ranging from literacy and criminal justice, to immigration and domestic violence.
- Responding to soaring property prices, the city will build 1,500 units of affordable living and working space for artists.
- Cultural groups in New York are increasingly interested in supporting immigrant communities, especially in response to the national trends in the US.
City data: Key facts
Geographical area: 1,214.40 sq. km
Total population: 8,622,698
Total national population living in the city: 3 %
Education level – with degree level or higher: 36 %
GDP per capita in 2008 (PPP): US$ 73,300
Creative industries employment: 5.4%
Since the 17th century – when it was founded as a Dutch trading post – New York City has been a centre of trade and one of the main gateways for immigration to the United States. As well as being the capital of finance and law in the United States, New York is a centre for the creative industries: including fashion, design, art and advertising. The creativity driving this success is grounded in New York’s neighbourhoods, which have played an often revolutionary role in developing artforms. These include Yiddish theatre in the Lower East Side, hip hop and graffiti in the Bronx, pop art and punk rock in the East Village, the jazz and the literature of the Harlem Renaissance. Beyond these globally influential artforms, art and culture continue to play a fundamental role in the daily life of New Yorkers – fostering community, vibrancy, and connections for communities in every corner of the city.
Like so many cities across the globe, the city has been profoundly changed by the Covid-19 pandemic. While no part of the city was untouched, the impacts have been acutely felt in New York City’s creative economy. For the first time in their history, Broadway’s theatres went dark indefinitely, closing completely between March 2020 and September 2021. According to reporting by the Centre for an Urban Future based on data collected by the City’s Department of Cultural Affairs, New York’s cultural workforce lost more than $1.5 billion in wages during the first 15 months of the pandemic, most directly affecting working artists of colour, as well as smaller and BIPOC-led cultural organisations.
The city’s arts and culture community has also helped pave the way for the city’s recovery. The pandemic has had a transformative impact on the city’s streetscape, plazas and parks, reaffirming the value of public space in the city. The hollowing out of commercial real estate in Manhattan – which is now slowly returning – in some cases has had the effect of strengthening the cultural fabric at a neighbourhood level throughout the five boroughs, as people tended to remain closer to home as remote work became commonplace. The city implemented a network of open and car-free sites and a loosening of restrictions around outdoor structures and dining has created an entire new typology – the ‘streetery’ – activating the streetscape in nearly every corner of the city.
But the city is currently in a challenging moment. New York City’s current Mayor Eric Adams and a new City Council elected in 2021 are faced with addressing fundamental challenges to livability in the city – rental prices are increasing at a rate double the national average which is widening existing inequality. Crime rates and concerns about public safety are on the rise, and recovery, while gaining momentum, has been uneven.
Mayor Adams has rolled out Rebuild, Renew, Reinvent: A Blueprint for New York City’s Economic Recovery to outline his administration’s vision for guiding the city after the pandemic. The plan is framed around five strategic areas: 1) restarting the city’s economic engines and reactivating the public realm; 2) supporting small businesses, entrepreneurship, and a more equitable economy; 3) inclusive sector growth and building a future-focused economy; 4) connecting New Yorkers to quality jobs and in-demand skills; and 5) building for inclusive growth now and in the future.
Cultural policy is set and managed by the City’s Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA), the largest municipal funder of the arts in the United States. Other City offices, including the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, also play critical roles in determining the City’s cultural policy. DCLA’s work supports upwards of 1,000 non-profit cultural organisations throughout the city.
In March 2022, Mayor Adams appointed Laurie Cumbo as the Commissioner of Cultural Affairs. Cumbo previously served as a member of the City Council representing Brooklyn’s 35th district, and before that founded the Museum of African Contemporary Diasporan Art. In addition to overseeing key aspects of Mayor Adams’ Economic Recovery Blueprint, DCLA is in the process of implementing the CreateNYC Action Plan, first introduced in 2019, in response to the ambitious research and recommendations laid out in the 2017 CreateNYC comprehensive cultural plan. The objectives of the action plan are increasing equitable funding and support for culture, especially in historically underserved communities; cultivating more inclusive practices within the cultural sector, both within DCLA itself and within arts organisations; strengthening connections between the cultural sector and government by embedding arts and culture in the City’s neighbourhood and resiliency planning and leveraging DCLA support to open new pathways to other public funding and resources; and providing high quality arts education for all New York City public school students. The goals of the plan, originally laid out in 2017, have only become more urgent in the wake of the pandemic.