The Artists’ Guide to the 2013 New York City Mayoral Race

by Whitney Kimball on August 30, 2013 Feature

The Mayoral Candidates

The New York City mayoral candidates have been busy staking out their territories; we’ve got the teachers’ and firefighters’ candidate (Bill Thompson), the teamsters’ candidate (Christine Quinn), the health care workers’ (Bill de Blasio), the transit workers and engineers’ candidate (John Liu), the sergeants’ candidate (John Catsimatidis), the retired Irish corrections officers’ candidate (Joe Lhota), and even the pro-weiner constituency (guess who). So, artists, who’s our candidate? As of this writing, that falls squarely to the de Blasio campaign, which stopped by Williamsburg for pizza last month for a drive-by stab at the hipster vote.

One of very few mentions of the arts took place in a series of candidate interviews with WNYC.
In them, Leonard Lopate and Kurt Anderson pointed out that the arts generates an annual $8.1 billion in revenue for the city, though the city only designates one quarter of one percent of its budget to the arts. None of the candidates gave any promising indication of raising that budget.

So, fine, we have other issues. Who’s in bed with the arts real estate developers? Who’s promising rent freezes? Who wants to hire art teachers? You’ll find those answers, and more, in your guide to artist-relevant bullet points for the 2013 mayoral election.

Christine Quinn

Nothing would lead you to believe that Christine Quinn’s going to be a great friend of the arts. She has close ties to Bloomberg, who may have been good about streamlining the process of getting arts funding but certainly made the city a very difficult place for artists to live. She’s only been the primary sponsor for two bills in her last term running up to the campaign, and has a history of watering down controversial legislation when it involves her backers (see the living wage bill), which does not suggest that she might stick her neck out for bold changes.

When asked about whether she’ll raise the budget for art, she says no. She also seems painfully unaware of artists as a population. When told that this city is home to over 1300 nonprofit cultural institutions, and that Williamsburg has more artists per square inch than anywhere else in the country, she shrugs: “Really?” Yes.

Art cred: In 2012, she pledged $100,000 from City Council to start the freelancers’ medical clinic.
She’s an ex-officio MoMA trustee.

Arts funding: The New York Daily News has reported that she’s poured hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars into High Line development, whose players have given her tens of thousands over the years in campaign contributions.

Does she care if you move to Baltimore? No. In 2009, the New York Daily News reported that Two Trees realty donated nearly $34,650 to her campaign so that she’d approve DUMBO development projects. Two Trees is well known for rapidly developing around art centers.

One of her campaign donors was developer and collector Philip Aarons, who was recently appointed a member of the New York City Art Commission by Mayor Bloomberg.

Art blunder: She cites Giuliani as a friend of the arts, because he wanted the Met to stay open after 9/11.

Bottom line: If you can’t return the favor, don’t ask.

Bill de Blasio

Bill de Blasio’s opposition to Bloomberg, his ambitious pro-working-class proposals, and his overall liberal ethos, would make you hope for an end to developer-centric policies. In fact, idealism may be his biggest fault; in an endorsement for Quinn, the New York Times hints at another potential Obama scenario, where practical negotiations wither on the vine.

Art cred: He used to have a beard.
He’s courting the hipster vote.
He’s endorsed by Associated Musicians of Greater New York Local 802, the union for musicians on Broadway, the Met Opera, the Philharmonic, in nightclubs, hotels, and restaurants. He’s also endorsed by the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.
He has the support of the artiest Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro.

General cred: He threw his support behind a controversial living wage bill in 2011, which would raise the wage of workers in city developments– though he did so as a political challenge to Christine Quinn.

Arts funding: He promises arts education for all public schools (he co-sponsored such a bill in 2007, though it was laid over in committee).
He’s said the city should restore affordable housing for artists.
Still, de Blasio’s been unwilling to raising arts funding, he says because the city will have to face a number of fiscal challenges in the next year. The biggest fiscal issue he foresees is that every one of the city’s labor contracts are open at the moment.

Does he care if you move to Baltimore? Maybe. He made a worst landlords watchlist, and was a public advocate.
He campaigns on affordable housing, and hopes to create 50,000 new affordable units over the next decade.
He wants to reduce a hidden water tax on landlords to help reduce housing costs.
He got the HEAT (Heat Enforcement for All Tenants) Act passed.
He’s also been criticized for favoring developers’ interests over those of Brooklyn residents.

Biggest art blunder: Calling the hipsters hipsters.

Bottom line: He’s dangling a golden carrot; on the other hand, he’s running for mayor.

Bill Thompson

It’s hard to tell what former NYC comptroller, former Wall Street investment banker, and once-near-mayor Bill Thompson wants, through generally pandering language. In some instances, he comes off as a poky bureaucrat, while in others, he’s been known to make drastic, and surprise political coups. He promises to increase funding to schools and police; he also promises not to raise taxes, which doesn’t make sense. He has the support of the teacher’s union; when asked what he’ll do about arts funding in schools, he describes learning to play the viola. Which sounds like a very roundabout way of saying “no.”

Art cred: His wife was the president of the Museum for African Art in Manhattan for 15 years.

The New York Post reports unfavorably that while he was on the Battery Park City Authority, Thompson gave $10,000 to the LMCC and $1,000 to the Public Art Fund. He gave $20,000 to the Tribeca Film Festival, whose board member Jonathan Tisch gave the maximum $4,950 to his campaign.

Arts funding: He’s the former President of the City’s Board of Education, and he wants to end Bloomberg practice of shuttering low-performing schools, which won him an endorsement from the Teacher’s Union. He pledges to do so without raising taxes.

Does he care if you move to Baltimore? Maybe. He’s backed by real estate developer Howard Milstein, but he says he’s against rent hikes.

Biggest art blunder: Avoiding the question.

Bottom line: Beats us.

Joseph J. Lhota

He’s a Republican, the former chief of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and a former executive at Cablevision and Madison Square Garden. He’s described by many as a pragmatic, ballsy, independent thinker. Art people will know him as the face of Giuliani’s war on the Brooklyn Museum, which he spearheaded as mayoral aide. He admits he’d never gone to see the Ofili painting. Now he says he regrets it. Now he says he doesn’t. He also supports Stop-and-Frisk, and, like Bill Thompson, he’s a former investment banker.

Art cred: He supports legalizing pot.
He reinstated the MTA’s “Poetry in Motion” series during his stint as MTA chief.

Arts funding: He’s for arts funding in schools.

Does he care if you move to Baltimore? Maybe. We’re not sure where he stands on rent, but he did offer a proposal for park-and-ride lots on the city’s outer edges, to help people commute.

Biggest art blunder: The Brooklyn Museum is one of his biggest blunders, period.

Bottom line: For better or worse, his aesthetic tastes will factor into decision-making about art and architecture. He chose not to greenlight ugly Modernist buildings at the Second Ave subway stop, because he felt they were ugly. The MTA’s president of capital construction remarked that Lhota “would not have done a pyramid in front of the Louvre.”

John C. Liu

Liu raised the most money in Bushwick, but that’s because he’s the immigrant candidate and that neighborhood’s population includes many immigrants. This makes him similarly populist to de Blasio. He was a Councilman and comptroller, and like most, arts do not seem to be on his radar. He did, however, offer the one most promising soundbyte from an arts interview with WNYC: “I would start by increasing the funding for the lesser-established organizations, newer organizations, many of them in the neighborhoods in immigrant communities, those out of the mainstream. This is where we nurture the talent, skills, of the eight and a half million people we have in this city.” The awareness alone of lesser-established organizations demonstrates the greatest understanding of the arts in this race.

Art cred: He’s an ex-officio MoMA trustee

Arts funding: It’s unclear how much, if any, he’d give to the arts. He appears to have sponsored more legislation than any of the other candidate while in City Council, though, and he claims to have saved the city $4 billion in waste as comptroller. So, he’s a do-er.

Does he care if you move to Baltimore? Yes. Last year, he conducted a study on high rents, and he’s worked with Bill de Blasio on rent reform.

Bottom line: A de Blasio back-up plan.

Anthony Weiner

Bottom line: He didn’t even show up to the arts interview.

John Catsimatidis

Catsimatidis makes the list because he’s one of three Republican candidates, he’s in second, and he’s a billionaire. His game plan includes bringing the World’s Fair back to New York, and a monorail on the Long Island Expressway. He’s not sure about global warming. His grocery chain Gristedes is a mess. He fell asleep in the middle of a WNYC interview. But all in all, it seems this election is primarily to raise awareness about him, John Catsimatidis. Aka, “the Cat Man.” Just watch the video.

Art cred: N/A

Arts funding: He says he wants to expand arts and music funding in schools

Does he care if you move to Baltimore? If you are a small business, then yes. Otherwise, he’s deep in New York City real estate, and as the Wall Street Journal notes, is “eyeing a few ambitious development projects, both in Brooklyn”– a serious conflict of interest.

Bottom line: Haha, but seriously, he could buy us all.

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