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A Big Apple comedy club owner thinks Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s sudden plan to jump-start the local entertainment industry is a joke.
“I thought it was an ‘Onion’ piece at first,” said Dani Zoldan, co-owner of Upper West Side comedy club Stand Up NY.
The governor on Monday announced an upcoming program of star-studded “pop-up” performances everywhere from subway platforms to local parks, many of which will be free of charge.
But Zoldan said struggling independent venues like his have already been organizing similar outdoor events during the coronavirus pandemic — only illegally.
“Outdoor shows aren’t even allowed [but] we’ve been doing it anyway, because we have nothing to lose,” said Zoldan.
His club has produced more than 500 outdoor events in parks across Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens since May and hosts shows every Saturday night on the 1 Train.
“We’ve proven that we’ve been able to do it safely,” said Zoldan. “And then [Cuomo] goes and announces this plan to create all this outdoor programming free of charge.”
“It’s not showing consideration for independent venues that are struggling to survive,” he added.
Instead of organizing performances, the state should “be working with venues directly to figure out how they can safely reopen,” Zoldan said.
Still, despite his critique of the program, Zoldan allowed that “I guess it’s good for New Yorkers.”
“The more entertainment the better,” he said. “New Yorkers need to be entertained.”
The state says the “NY PopsUp” festival, which begins Feb. 20, will serve as a “pilot program” and create New York’s “first large-scale model for how to bring live performance back safely” after the COVID-19 shutdown.
“When you shut down Broadway, when you shut down movie theaters, you shut down an entire economy,” Cuomo said at a press briefing.
“So we’re going to accelerate [their] reopening with 300 pop-up arts [performances] across the state.”
Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League, welcomed the program.
“It’s a thrill any time we can get the talented creatives and artists of our community back to work,” she said in a statement.
“We want to keep Broadway front of mind while we are still unable to be in theatres. This industry is vital to NYC’s economy and brand and a key part of the city’s comeback.”
She added: “We think it’s a great idea that these amazing entertainers will bring the joy of the theatre to our city, our state and our fans.”
Meanwhile, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city will be offering a new free permit for outdoor street performances by struggling groups like theaters.
The new “Open Culture” permits, which start March 1, will allow for 50-person events and will be given to qualified “art and cultural institutions” such as theaters that receive arts funding.
“As you see the city come back to life, culture will lead the way,” de Blasio told reporters at a separate press conference.
“Now, we will be bringing our cultural community back to the greatest stage in the world, the streets of New York City.”
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