New York City Mayoral Candidates Commit to Supporting Literary Arts
In series of conversations with the New York Literary Action Coalition, Adams, Donovan, Morales, Stringer, and Wiley all agree that writers and the organizations that support them are vital to the city’s recovery
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(New York, NY) — With just two months to go until the primary, contenders for New York City mayor have proclaimed their commitment to financially supporting writers and the literary arts if elected. In a series of virtual roundtable conversations with the New York Literary Action Coalition—a consortium of the city’s leading organizations representing and supporting writers—Eric Adams, Shaun Donovan, Dianne Morales, Scott Stringer, and Maya Wiley all expressed clear, unequivocal support for helping the city’s literary community recover as the city emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic. Whoever becomes mayor, the New York Literary Action Coalition will be a vigilant monitor of municipal support for the vital role that writers, publishers, and the literary arts play in the life of New York City.
“Rather than just committing to the arts in general, we’re heartened that all the mayoral contenders we spoke to firmly committed to ensuring the survival of writers and writers’ organizations,” said Alejandro Heredia, community outreach manager at PEN America and a leader of the New York Literary Arts Coalition. “Our community has proven that we deserve a voice in the halls of power, and that literary arts are a vital component of the larger artistic community that makes New York City the vibrant city that is is—and surely will continue to be.”
The literary and free expression group PEN America—a member of the coalition—has published edited transcripts of conversations the coalition held with mayoral candidates. In wide-ranging conversations (Scott Stringer participated via email), the mayoral candidates all reflected on their favorite authors, their favorite New York City literary moments, and crucially, why they believe supporting a revival of literary arts is key to helping the city recover.
The coalition has been advocating for recovery funds to go to literary organizations, and for city leaders to treat literary organizations and writers as a distinct part of the New York City cultural landscape. The coalition has been surveying writers and literary groups to gauge the economic impact of the pandemic on the literary community and will be publishing those findings later this spring. Meantime, the coalition is urging mayoral candidates to view the literary community as an essential part of the city’s recovery.
“There needs to be a clear allocation [of funds] to the literary and the arts community,” said Eric Adams, currently serving as Brooklyn borough president. “One of the number one things I’m going to do as mayor is clearly put in place a strong level of stability for the literary community, so in return, that community will help us navigate emotional trauma that came from COVID-19.”
“I have learned, over the years, the power of artists, the necessity of artists to be involved in moments like this to help us reimagine a world that we’ve never seen before,” said former Obama housing secretary Shaun Donovan. “If we’re not building a vibrant, artistic life, literary life, we will not be the world’s leading city once again.”
“The need for us to be able to tell our stories is, as far as I’m concerned, a critical part of the healing process and the reckoning process,” said nonprofit leader Dianne Morales. “I think we should be providing all sorts of grants and targeted programs specifically to support the arts in this process of documenting what’s happening in our communities.”
Current New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer said he would “[e]xplicitly designate the literary arts community in all policy-making related to moving the city’s arts and culture industries forward from the pandemic.”
“We want to prioritize a couple of different parallel tracks as we think about re-imagining New York City,” said lawyer and activist Maya Wiley. “One obviously is recovering, but recovering in a way that’s investing in communities and in communities being whole, which is where I think arts and culture absolutely fits in to the sense of the whole community.”
The coalition also met with Carlos Menchaca, who has since withdrawn from the race.
The mission of the New York Literary Action Coalition is to bring forward the voice and views of the literary community through activism that defends free expression; underscores the power of literature; promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion; and advances social justice. The partners for the coalition include professional literary organizations, community and campus literary groups, independent bookstores and publishers, arts organizations with literary programs, performance spaces, and individual writers and literary professionals.
**PEN America, based on polling of the top contenders in the race, also reached out to candidates Andrew Yang and Ray McGuire. Yang never responded to our inquiries, and McGuire canceled but never rescheduled. The Literary Action Coalition is prepared to meet with them, time and scheduling permitting.**