Arts Groups on Edge as New York City Re-evaluates Cultural Funding

Robin Pogrebin

The elite, majestic museums of Manhattan never had to worry about competing for city money with the small-fry arts groups of Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx. Those organizations, hardly world famous or well connected, had to accept scraps while the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Lincoln Center and other giants enjoyed a relative feast of resources under the city’s century-old formula for financing cultural institutions.

But this two-tiered system of haves and have-nots is poised for its biggest transformation in decades. Mayor Bill de Blasio and his lieutenants are deep into a re-examination of New York City’s $178 million arts budget and other cultural resources to try to give a higher profile — and perhaps more taxpayer money — to smaller institutions in disadvantaged neighborhoods.

The prospect of a new approach, with an emphasis on greater equity, has some major arts organizations fearful they will end up with less of the municipal-funding pie, while more marginalized groups are hopeful about finally receiving more.