BUSHWICK – It was standing room only at Bushwick’s Secret Project Robot as artists, musicians and DIY enthusiasts joined venue and business owners to discuss the future of New York’s nightlife with the newly appointed “Night Mayor” Ariel Palitz in her first public appearance.
Named to the position earlier this year, Palitz will serve as the Executive Director of the Office of Nightlife, with a mandate to facilitate communication and provide a point of contact between city agencies, communities, and New York’s nightlife industry.
In her first appearance, Palitz told those gathered she was there to listen, reassuring the audience that nightlife was “what [she] was put on this Earth to preserve and protect.”
“Nightlife raised me,” she told the audience, sharing her bona fides as a native New Yorker and long-time member of the nightlife industry, having run the Sutra Lounge in the East Village for 10 years. But she balanced those statements by citing her time on Community Board 3 and years spent living above a bar, which she acknowledged can be a “nightmare.”
“I’m here to work with you to preserve, protect and enliven nightlife,” she said, “But also to be good neighbors, to be legal.”
A number of community leaders in the nightlife and DIY arts and music scene were able to voice their concerns, which ranged from consent education and safety for scene members to business protections like commercial rent control and lease extension protection. Audience members echoed those sentiments, calling for more open communication between city bureacracy—and enforcement—and those trying to preserve and protect culture.
Councilmember Rafael Espinal was also in attendance, urging those present to not only voice their concerns, but to act on them—especially by registering to vote and contacting their local representatives to make their voices heard.
Espinal was a key player in advocating for the Office of Nightlife as he also worked to repeal the “Cabaret Law” which banned dancing from many New York performance spaces. An advocate of the DIY and nightlife scene, Espinal assured those present that he’d continue to help protect artist spaces. “We’ve seen a lot of our favorite places close over the last 10 years—that ends tonight,” he said.
Towards the end of the evening, Palitz did temper expectation, reminding the passionate attendees that her office was geared towards communication and streamlining bureaucracy, not so much for passing major legislation.
But she’s definitely listening. “Right now—bring it on,” Palitz said. “I’m ready to hear it all.”
The new Night Mayor said that even the creation of her position was a sign of progress when it comes to preserving New York’s nightlife. While her listening tour is set to continue as she builds her office and appoints an advisory council, Palitz sounded cautiously optimistic as she closed.
“I hope to make you all proud and achieve some of our goals.”