PublishedWed, 10 May 2017, 17:14
- Rafael Espinal wants to follow London and Amsterdam in advocating for the city's booming nightlife industry.
New York City councilman Rafael Espinal told Gothamist that he's drafting legislation to create an Office Of Nightlife, which would be overseen by a "night mayor."
The night mayor would advocate for the city's nightlife industry by mitigating some of the difficulties that hinder artists and entrepreneurs. The proposed office would help untangle the dense legal and bureaucratic apparatus that can keep grassroots or community-oriented projects from getting off the ground. (This is a subject we tackled at length in our feature about nightlife, real estate and gentrification in New York.)
"What I imagine the office doing," Espinal told Gothamist over the phone, "is finding ways we can be helpful in creating a business friendly environment that supports nightlife. And I want to make sure that we're not a city where artists' ability to express themselves is hindered by bureaucracy."
The proposal is inspired by similar legislation from European nightlife capitals. Amsterdam was the first to create such a position, in 2014, appointing former party promoter Mirik Milan as an arbiter between the city's clubs and its bureaucratic offices. In February they held their first Nacht voor de Nacht, a new annual event that offered access to 20 clubs for only €15. Last year, London mayor Sadiq Khan appointed the city's first "Night Czar," Amy Lamé, who was tasked with championing the UK capital's night-time culture and economy. The founder of Manchester's Warehouse Project and Parklife festival is also pushing for a similar position there.
Espinal emphasizes the importance of New York's DIY venues—vital music spaces that may not be fully licensed or up to code. Many of them, like Shea Stadium and Palisades, have been shut down in the last few years due to increased legal pressure, especially in the wake of Oakland's deadly Ghost Ship fire.
"We've gotten to the point," he explained in the same interview, "where the only venues who are able to survive in this city are the high-end nightclubs in the Meatpacking district, or places with similar business models." He also advocated for more "sensible nightlife policies," and even drafted a bill to repeal the notorious Cabaret Law, which requires a specific license for venues with three or more people dancing at the same time.
He's confident the bill will get its first hearing this year, and while he doesn't have any candidates in mind for the position, he's looking or someone with "experience frequenting a DIY venue."
To read more about the challenges facing New York nightlife due to real estate value and increased legal scrutiny, read an RA feature about it here. You can also read Andrew Ryce's op-ed about why underground and DIY spaces are more vital than ever.