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Mayor Bill de Blasio. Photo: Wikipedia.
Mayor Bill de Blasio. Photo: Wikipedia.

Bill de Blasio’s Budget for 2021 Significantly Cuts NYC’s Arts Funding

While New York City tentatively plans to reopen the economy on May 15, experts predict that the impact of its unprecedented shutdown due to COVID-19 could be felt for years. Among the hardest-hit institutions in the five boroughs are museums and cultural organizations, which are also facing a decrease in funding as the city prepares for a $7.4 billion loss in tax revenue.

In the $89.3 billion executive budget for the 2021 fiscal year, which was unveiled by Mayor Bill de Blasio on April 16, the final figures were drastically different from those in the preliminary budget proposal in January, before the first case of the novel coronavirus was confirmed in New York. Funding for various departments, including the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA), has been significantly decreased.

“Our top priorities are simple: we will keep people safe, protect their health, make sure there is a roof over their head and that food is on their table,” said de Blasio, who also admonished the Trump administration to approve an additional $500 billion for the city in the next federal stimulus bill—the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, which President Donald Trump signed at the end of March, only allotted $1.4 billion for New York City.

Last year, de Blasio awarded the DCLA with a record $212 million, the highest amount the city ever allocated for the arts and the largest cultural budget in the nation. The budget supported the mayor’s comprehensive cultural plan CreateNYC, which introduced new diversity and accessibility standards for institutions. In the latest proposal, the department will receive $137 million, a more than 35 percent decrease from the 2020 fiscal year. While this number may change since the city council still has to review the budget and negotiate changes, if approved it will go into effect on July 1.

Among the members of the Cultural Institutions Group, a coalition of thirty-three arts organizations located on city property that receive operating support from the city, is the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which will be granted $6.9 million less than last year and $4.5 million less than January’s figure. The Brooklyn Museum was earmarked to receive $7.9 million, compared to $9 million in 2020, and the Studio Museum in Harlem will be given $180,000 less than last year, when it was allotted $706,463.

“While we don’t take any reductions lightly, especially in the middle of this crisis when the funds are desperately needed, we have mitigated the reductions given the broader fiscal realities the city is dealing with,” a DCLA spokesperson said in a statement. “We are committed to working toward an FY21 adopted budget that supports our constituents and accounts for the challenges this crisis continues to present to our city.”