Posts Tagged ‘East River’

Ask the Locals, Yes, but Which Ones?

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

By David Gonzalez
City Room Blog
New York Times (May 27, 2008)

Five celebrities were featured when the “Just Ask the Locals” campaign, with tourism tips, started in August.You know you’re onto something when even Brooklynites extend a compassionate hand to their mainland rivals in the Bronx. Yet that is what happened after my City Room post in mid-May about hotels, tourism and the Bronx. Boosters of both boroughs know they are often seen as provincial outposts that could never rival the imperial majesty of Manhattan Island.

Yeah, right. As they say in some parts of the city — actually, many parts — “Que si que?” That’s Spanish for “Say what?”

Similar phrases are probably being uttered in Mandarin, Urdu, Arabic and any other of the dozens of languages spoken in this city by the locals. Yet, one advertising campaign intended to encourage tourists to “Just Ask the Locals” has a lopsided view of who the locals actually are.

Granted, the campaign (the ads for which can often be seen in the small black-and-yellow rectangular box on the top-right of the City Room blog front) is big on celebrities, fashionistas and people who are famous and fabulous in some circles. And to be fair, some of the advice posted online by nonfamous New Yorkers actually reflects city life and attractions on the other side of the East River (as do a few of the celebrity videos on the site).

But back to those celebrities. According to NYC & Company, which is behind the campaign, 27 people were chosen to participate in the campaign’s first two phases. Of those, six are black, one if half Korean and the rest — about 80 percent — are white (or, appear to be, anyway). That’s non-Hispanic white, by the way.

Mind you, the actual percentage of non-Hispanic whites in the city is 35 percent, according to the 2000 Census. Hispanics, who can be any race, accounted for 27 percent, black/African-American 24.5 percent and Asians accounted for 9.7 percent.

Jane Reiss, the chief marketing officer at NYC & Company, said the campaign was committed to representing more of the city’s diversity in terms of people and places. The personalities featured in the first two phases — “citizens of the city” who donated their time and wrote their own copy — were found through personal connections, a public relations agency and recommendations from partners of the tourism group.

Willie Colon, the salsa musician and sometime politico, has been working with the group for a while now, she said, and he is scheduled to shoot a video for the ad campaign soon.

“This campaign is evolving,” Ms. Reiss said. “We have a list of people we like to reach out to. It is very diverse. Ugly Betty is coming to the city, and we’re reaching out to America Ferrera.”

Ugly Betty is a New Yorker. America Ferrera, however, only plays one on television.

However, the cast of civic boosters was assembled, the travel tips seen on parts of the Web site hew toward the tried-and-trendy in Manhattan, by and large. Alan Cumming suggests a club on the Lower East Side, Sean Combs favors drinks at the Mandarin Oriental. One designer raves about custom-made shirts at Barneys, while another suggests that tourists check out the bargains in the flower district.

And while Deborah Harry recommends a club in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, she also promotes Kenkeleba Garden in the East Village as “one of my favorite little-known places.”

By these standards, the other four boroughs could be called “little-known places,” too.

The absence of any Latino celebrities — even Jennifer Lopez, though she and Marc Anthony live on Long Island now — is disheartening but not surprising to those who notice such things.

“Latino culture is invisible in this city,” said Arlene Dávila, a professor at New York University who has written about the intersection of culture, ethnicity and the city. “You have this whitewashed city, a very upscale city, free of ethnicity. This is a city which is more than a quarter Latino, and you cannot find a celebrity who is Latino? Hello!”

If by celebrity you mean someone who appears on television, another scholar has some bad news. Clara E. Rodriguez, a professor at Fordham University, looked at the casts of the most popular prime-time shows and found that even those set in New York featured few recurring Latino characters (as opposed to the janitor who shrugs and keeps sweeping when being questioned by a police officer in some cop show).

“People want to envision New York as Manhattan, where it is white, urban sophisticates and well-to-do,” she said. “It’s an old view of New York City, even if the shows are set in modern times.”

The 21st Century City – Five Borough Edition – has a little more flavor and fun. While the Bronx Tourism Council has yet to return a phone call from two weeks ago, regular e-mail messages from the Bronx Council on the Arts consistently laud dance, theater, exhibits and concerts from the borough that gave the world doo-wop, salsa and hip-hop.

The history of those last three genres can actually be traced, just by walking up Prospect Avenue, starting at Samuel Gompers High School (where Grandmaster Flash got his start), past Casa Amadeo (where Mike Amadeo still presides over a music store that has attracted generations of Latin artists), and into Morrisania (where vocal groups once harmonized on street corners and stairwells).
That’s just one street.

Then there is Brooklyn, whose borough president, Marty Markowitz, apparently never misses a chance to promote its people, neighborhoods and attractions. He thinks the “Just Ask the Locals” is a good start, and he praises the city for promoting tourism in recent years.

But, he added, consider these locals:

Mos Def, the actor and rapper? Brooklyn.
Jhumpa Lahiri, a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist? Brooklyn.
The Mighty Sparrow, King of Calypso? Queens, mainly.

“But he’s got a place in Brooklyn, too!” Mr. Markowitz said. “Whatever Brooklyn doesn’t have, Queens does. Between Brooklyn and Queens, we represent the world.”

Quick, somebody call Staten Island.

UMEZ AWARDS LANDMARK GRANT TO EL MUSEO DEL BARRIO

Tuesday, July 10th, 2007

UMEZ AWARDS LANDMARK GRANT TO EL MUSEO DEL BARRIO

$2 million grant is largest in museum’s 40 year history

New York, NY – Yesterday, Congressman Charles B. Rangel, joined by Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito, Luis Miranda, a member of the Board of Directors of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corp., (UMEZ), and Julián Zugazagoitia, Director of El Museo del Barrio, announced today that the organization has awarded the museum a $2 million grant to implement a strategic plan that will complement renovations to the museum that are currently underway.

The announcement was made during Summer Nights at El Museo Del Barrio’s 2007 concert series at Teatro Heckscher, with Tito Puente, Jr. as the evening’s performer.

El Museo del Barrio was founded in 1969 by artist-educator Raphael Montañez Ortiz in response to the interest of Puerto Rican parents, educators, artists and community activists in East Harlem’s Spanish-speaking El Barrio, the neighborhood that extends from 96th Street to the Harlem River and from Fifth Avenue to the East River on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The contexts of El Museo’s founding were the national civil rights movement and, in the New York City art world, the campaign that called for major art institutions to decentralize their collections and to represent a variety of non-European cultures in their collections and programs.

El Museo del Barrio is among the leading Latino and Latin American cultural institutions in the nation. The New York Times recently characterized El Museo as “the first stop on Museum Mile,” an institution offering “some of the most beautiful and disquieting art there is.” One of only a handful of Latino museums in the United States with a permanent collection, El Museo maintains the most comprehensive collection in the eastern region and one of the most varied in the country.

The Museum recently embarked on a long-term, multi-million dollar capacity-building program, the “Re-Envisioning of El Museo.” It consists of a five-year strategic plan and institution-wide programmatic expansion, for which El Museo has already raised a substantial amount of leveraged funds. At the same time, the Museum is undergoing a physical transformation through a $20 million capital renovation project.

UMEZ helped El Museo lay the foundation for organizational development and expansion by providing the Museum a technical assistance award of up to $50,000 to complete a strategic plan. The plan addresses the Museum’s programming, educational offerings, community engagement, theater programs, membership program, and governance and board development. Full strategic plan implementation will require $5.5 million in funding. The Museum had already secured over $2 million toward project costs prior to the $2 million, three-year UMEZ investment.

As a result of UMEZ’s three-year investment in strategic plan implementation, the Museum will create ten new jobs, deepen its relationships in its founding community, increase its earned income, and establish its first formal marketing and communications department. A re-invigorated El Museo will serve as a driving force in revitalizing cultural tourism in the East Harlem community and help brand el barrio as ‘the center of Latino culture and a tourist destination.’

Mr. Miranda, who chairs UMEZ’s Cultural Industry Investment Fund (CIIF), said, “The history of El Museo del Barrio is not only inextricably
linked to the history of the East Harlem community, it is also linked to the history of our great City. Through its many outstanding exhibitions and programs, this unique museum has helped to enlighten the world in so many, many ways. That’s why we at UMEZ are pleased and proud to be able to provide financial support to this fine institution.”

“It is an honor for El Museo to accept this $2 million as it represents the largest grant ever received in our 40-year history,” said Mr. Zugazagoitia. “This funding from UMEZ marks an investment in El Museo and El Barrio at this transformative time for both our community and our institution, and will ensure that the museum will continue to excel in providing the best in Latino cultural resources to New York
City.”

Over the past two years, UMEZ has approved investments in East Harlem Business Capital Corporation, Taller Boricua, Art For Change, La Fonda Boricua, PR Dream, and East River Plaza. The East River Plaza investment, which totaled $55 million, is the largest single investment in UMEZ history.

UMEZ believes that investments in East Harlem will have a positive impact throughout upper Manhattan in terms of its economic impact, the creation of jobs and improvements to its infrastructure.

ABOUT THE Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone DEVELOPMENT CORP.

UMEZ seeks to revitalize distressed communities by using geographically targeted public funds and tax incentives as catalysts for private investment. In Upper Manhattan, the communities that lie within the Empowerment Zone’s borders include Harlem, East Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood.

ABOUT THE CULTURAL INDUSTRY INVESTMENT FUND

UMEZ’s CIIF celebrates Upper Manhattan’s rich past while creating new legacies. The work of the CIIF is two-fold: community building through a cultural and economic lens; and, a marketing of place that repositions Upper Manhattan as one of New York City’s primary cultural districts. The goals of the CIIF are sustaining the local economy by promoting development, revitalization and tourism; making strategic cultural investments; and, strengthening the cultural ecosystem.

The CIIF provides support to cultural organizations that use the arts as a tool for economic development, job creation and growth of cultural tourism, within the five communities of Upper Manhattan. Primary means of support include funding and provision of technical assistance.