Councilmember Espinal calls for ‘Night Mayor’ to protect NYC nightlife
Mayor Bill de Blasio may soon have to amend his title to “Day Mayor” if legislation proposed by city Councilmember Rafael Espinal gets passed.
Espinal, who represents Bushwick, Brownsville, Cypress Hills and East New York, is currently drafting a bill to create an Office of Nightlife for New York City, which would be led by a “night mayor.”
The new position’s responsibilities would include regulating the nightlife industry, helping DIY venues stay open and creating a safer partying environment.
“How can our city make laws and regulate the nightlife industry, without adequately understanding it?” Espinal told the Brooklyn Eagle. “Nightlife is a $10 billion enterprise in NYC and is a significant part of our economic, social and cultural fabric.
“NYC needs a ‘nightlife mayor’ who can advocate for the specific needs of this industry and liaise between businesses and city agencies so that all venues are safe and up to code.”
Were the City That Never Sleeps to adopt a night mayor, it would be the first American city to do so. Many European metropolises have had night mayors for some time, including Amsterdam, Paris and London.
“We should follow the lead of other cities, such as London, Paris and Berlin, where crime and noise complaints have actually gone down because of the success of their nightlife advocacy,” Espinal told the Eagle.
“I look forward to working with this community, my colleagues and the administration to figure out the best path forward.”
Mirik Milan, the night mayor or “nachtburgemeester” of Amsterdam, is a particularly active and vocal night mayor who hopes to create an international network of night mayors.
Milan, who has held the position since 2012, has played a leading role in the introduction of 24-hour licenses for venues in the Dutch capital. He also organized the first-ever Night Mayor Summit in April 2016.
Night Mayors from Paris, Toulouse and Zurich attended and speakers from Berlin, London, Tokyo, Stockholm, Mumbai and San Francisco were present at the conference.
Milan, according to the Amsterdam night mayor’s website, is “dedicated to ensure a dynamic nightlife and helps to build bridges between the municipality, (small) business owners and residents.”
Milan came and spoke to club owners and nightlife professionals on May 6 at the Williamsburg club Output. The meeting was held to brainstorm ways New York could adopt an office of nightlife and how creating a night mayor in Amsterdam helped his city.
Anya Sapozhnikova, co-owner of the Bushwick nightclub House of Yes, told the Eagle that a nightlife mayor would help change the stigma of the nightlife industry into a positive one.
“We are a force and we deserve to be recognized as that,” said Sapozhnikova, who attended the meeting. “It feels like nightlife has had a bad rep, which is unfounded. It should have a really good rep of stimulating the city’s economy. We’re creating culture in our city. People come to New York because of nightlife.
“At the same time, there isn’t an equal voice talking about the concerns, issues and struggles that we are having and a voice that is being heard. With Milan, that was where they started, prove the fact that nightlife does not increase crime, that nightlife increases revenue to the city. Once that became super clear is when the program started to be recognized and started to work.”
Last month, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce hosted an event at Brooklyn Bowl that released the results of a study studying the economic impact study of music in New York City.
The study revealed that the music industry supports roughly 60,000 jobs, accounts for $5 billion in wages and creates $21 billion in total economic output for the city.
In 2015, New York’s concert tickets accounted for $5.4 million, which was more than Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago combined.
Espinal has been an active advocate for bettering Brooklyn’s nightlife. He has been an outspoken opponent of the Cabaret Law, an antiquated and draconian law that prohibits dancing in venues that do no possess a cabaret license.
These certificates are extremely difficult to procure, and only 17 venues in Brooklyn and 88 in the entire city have the license.
These strict regulations have caused many iconic Brooklyn DIY venues to close, including Death By Audio, Glasslands and Shea Stadium.
“It’s a shame that event spaces … have to undergo so much scrutiny and cut through so much red tape to exist,” said Espinal. “We are losing great recreational spaces like Bushwick’s Shea Stadium because of it.
“It is time NYC rethinks the archaic and broad Cabaret Law and brings our regulations into the 21st century so that all businesses are treated equally and all communities are safe to express themselves.”
Espinal is drafting a bill to repeal the Cabaret Law.
“Nightlife has been really fragmented,” said Sapozhnikova. “All of these meetings and dialogues that a lot of club owners are now having, mostly in North Brooklyn, it’s going to make the scene a lot less fragmented, which is going to be a positive change.”
She added, “That was one of the main points that Milan was making. They finally had an official platform to come together as various nightclubs and nightlife organizations, so that gave this huge, huge industry a voice, which it didn’t have before.”
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