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De Blasio Announces New Socially-Distanced Outdoor Arts Program
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 05: Mayor of New York City Bill de Blasio attends the opening of the Bank of America 'Winter Village' at Bryant Park on November 05, 2020 in New York City. The pandemic has caused long-term repercussions throughout the tourism and entertainment industries, including short-term and permanent closures of historic and iconic venues, and costing the city and businesses billions in revenue. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)
Noam Galai/Getty Images

Mayor of New York City Bill de Blasio announced a new program last week, dedicated to giving artists the ability to work during the Covid-19 restrictions. The new “Open Culture” program will be a way for performers and artists to secure a permit and hold a live gathering outside.

In a video announcement, interpretive dancers can be seen performing in cold weather outside while the mayor says, “We need a recovery that brings back the life and the heart and the energy of this city and that everyone gets to be a part of. If we’re going to do that, if we’re going to really bring back the heart and soul of New York City, we need our arts and culture back and we need people to see it and feel it, to participate in it, to know that that essence of New York City has not been defeated by the coronavirus, but will come back strong in 2021.”

The program is the latest addition to a list of ways that the city has attempted to recover from the economic hardships caused by the coronavirus. The “Open Restaurants” program allegedly created opportunities for restaurants to apply for permits to try to stay open. “Open Streets” opened 100 miles of streets in New York City to “allow for greater social distancing during the COVID-19 crisis.”

The program’s website states,

Open Culture is a new permit type available from the Mayor’s Street Activity Permit Office allowing for ticketed performances. Arts and cultural institutions, as well as entertainment venues, will have the opportunity to secure a permit for single day, socially distanced performances at over 100 street locations throughout all five boroughs.

In the past, Mayor de Blasio has received criticism for his apparent preferential treatment for certain types of gatherings.

As reported by The Associated Press last October,

In April, de Blasio oversaw the dispersal of a big Hasidic funeral in Brooklyn and took heat over a tweet warning “the Jewish community, and all communities” against large gatherings. 

De Blasio was accused by some for having a double-standard for permitting Black Lives Matter protests, but not religious gatherings.

Users took to Twitter to comment on the announcement of the arts program, including podcast host Joe Rogan, saying, “How the f- is this a real thing.” Others discussed how small businesses were still suffering while de Blasio gives money to the arts program.

Last Friday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that New York City restaurants were allowed to open at 25% capacity for indoor dining. But businesses in the metropolitan area continue to suffer. is a Harvard-run database monitoring the economic effect of the virus. It states,

In New York City, as of February 04 2021, total small business revenue decreased by 59.9% compared to January 2020.

Late last year, the New York Post reported that the New Jersey Business & Industry Association said that “28 percent of the Garden State’s small businesses had shut up shop by the end of October, according to the Star Ledger newspaper.”

Positive Covid-19 cases have been decreasing in New York City, as reported by NYC Health’s website. De Blasio’s promise at the announcement of the arts program  that the city will “come back to life” in the next year  will be watched closely.

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