Jimmy Van Bramer Signs Bill to Support Artists and Small Businesses

by Paddy Johnson on October 30, 2015 Newswire

Jimmy Van Bramer

Jimmy Van Bramer

The Small Business Jobs Survival Act (SBJSA) is gathering steam in New York. City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer has just signed on to the bill, which seeks to give commercial tenants a few more chips at the bargaining table. In the face of ever increasing rents, many believe the SBJSA couldn’t be more needed. Among other things, the bills give tenants in good standing the right to renew their lease for an additional 10 years, and allows artists to bring the dispute to binding arbitration by a third party.

“I agree with giving business owners better notification and working out fair renewals for people who have paid their rent on time for years and years.” Van Bramer told the Sunnyside Press last Friday.

The bill is great news for New York-based artists and small businesses, which is why The Artist Studio Affordability Project (A.S.A.P.) has been campaigning for the bill over the last two years. But only recently has it started to gain momentum—a slow domino effect caused by persistent campaigning amongst several groups in the city. The bill now has 27 council sponsors, which is enough for it to pass.


We for one, are happy to see Van Bramer get behind it. Early last month we complained that failing to do so, would be failing artists. As the Chair of the New York City Council’s Cultural Affairs Committee, Van Bramer’s vote should be seen as tangible support for the artist community.

“I think it’s fantastic that Jimmy Van Bramer signed on,” says Jenny Dubnau, A.S.A.P.’s co-founder, in a phone interview. “Bloomberg and other politicians often have the reputation as being for the arts but are coming from a philanthropic place. They support museums and institutions but often forget the artists in the trenches. Van Bramer has shown that he’s not just for those groups but also for working artists. That is a real politician for the arts.”

As it happens, much of this maneuvering takes place against the backdrop of the Brooklyn Museum’s announcement that they will host the Brooklyn Real Estate Summit this November. The day-long event for landlords and real estate developers sits poorly amongst many artists who see the museum as supportive of shows that cast a critical look at the real estate business while simultaneously currying favor with the businesses that hurt them the most. [Full disclosure: AFC has been working closely with many of these artists.] In this atmosphere, politicians who know the difference between philanthropy for the arts and structural support for artists couldn’t be more needed.

As Sheila Lewandowski, the executive director at the Chocolate Factory noted at the New York hearing on keeping the city affordable for artists back in 2013, “What is unique about artists is that they subsidize their own industry, and in doing so they subsidize every other industry in the city,” she said. “Without its cultural identity, people would not choose to set up businesses in New York, and it would not attract tourists whose money fuels a large part of the economy.”

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