Want to get paid to know everything about New York City nightlife? Mayor de Blasio has a job for you. Hizzoner signed a bill Tuesday to create an Office of Nightlife Industry, tasked with helping the city’s nightlife industry grow while managing community concerns.
“The office will be led — I’m not going to announce any names yet, there is a massive competition going in — but the office will be led by someone who undoubtedly will be more popular than me and will wield tremendous power: the nightlife mayor,” de Blasio said.
The mayor signed the bill — at night, of course — at House of Yes, a Bushwick venue for art and music that in recent weeks hosted events dubbed “Pole Play Wednesday,” and “Foreplay: Sensual Theatre.”
But the mayor brought along a little star power for the signing — he was joined by famous jazz musician Ron Carter and Marky Ramone, the drummer of the legendary punk band The Ramones, which led de Blasio to wax poetic about the late CBGBs.
“The punk movement was tremendously important and spoke to my heart and so many of the hearts of people around me,” he said.
Ramone said CBGBs was one of just three clubs that would allow bands like his to perform. “There’s a fine line between becoming a bedroom community or a big apple,” Ramone said, adding that the mayor hoped the Office of Nightlife and an attached 12-person Nightlife Committee would keep the city accessible and vibrant.
The bill was sponsored by Councilman Rafael Espinal (D-Brooklyn), who noted that a slew of iconic venues, many of them DIY or do-it-yourself venues, had closed in recent years in the face of rising rents, and adversarial relationships with the city and community boards.
“New York City right now is really at a crossroads.
We have lost all of the iconic and diverse venues to corporate entities which in turn homogenize the industry and expect you to pay expensive cover charges and drop hundreds of dollars on bottle service,” Espinal said.
House of Yes is one example of a DIY venue that made the jump from an underground club to a fully licensed music venue. Anya Sapozhnikova, a founder of the Nightclub, recalled years of fearing being shut down “for absolutely no reason.”
“This is surreal to have the mayor getting ready in our dressing room getting ready, and to have cops in the house and to have government people and DJs and circus freaks and people who party for a living all in one place,” she said. “Why should it be so surreal to have the arts and culture capital of the world be in support of the space that makes this kind of art and culture?”
Other venues haven’t been able to make that transition House of Yes did.
“Diverse and smaller venues that help create New York City’s brand as the city that never sleeps have been shuttering their doors,” Espinal told the News before the signing.
As a self-described “patron of New York City’s nightlife”
Espinal said the idea was brewing as he watched venues he’d frequented, like Glasslands and Shea Stadium, close down.
Glasslands was among the last warehouses-turned art galleries-turned concert venues on the Williamsburg waterfront, before it closed in 2014 and Vice Media moved into the building. Shea Stadium — the East Williamsburg rock club, not the actual stadium — shut down in March, citing “pressure from local authorities” and need to get proper permits. The venue has been seeking a new home.
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Safety at DIY art and music venues have been a particular concern since a fatal fire ravaged Ghost Ship, an underground place in Oakland, in late 2016. Espinal said balancing those interests with helping to maintain different art and music spaces were his goal for the office.
“One of the goals of this office is to work with the DIY community on how they can come up to code and come out of the bureaucratic shadows,” he said.
Asked which current spots he patronized, Espinal cited House of Yes and Zablozki’s in Williamsburg. But he said he wasn’t sure of the nightlife industry cred of the city’s mayor. “I can’t speak to him,” he said of de Blasio. “But I have seen some of his dance moves.”