This summer, amid the usual feasts and festivals dotting New York City’s streets, there will be a whole new kind of celebration. For three full months, the all-new Festival of New York will bring art, education, music, and more to all five boroughs with the help of more than 200 community partners, including dozens from right here in Brooklyn.
“Time and again, New York has shown that our grit and resilience is unmatched, and our culture and diversity make this the greatest city in the world,” said Mayor Eric Adams. “And now, 200+ organizations, across all five boroughs, will collectively showcase all the creativity, the resiliency, the diversity, and the spirit that makes New York City all that it is. I am thankful to each of these organizations that are helping us to recover, helping us to build back, and helping us to succeed together.”
Bound not by the seasonal beginning and end of the season but the cultural ones — Memorial Day and Labor Day — the festival also isn’t constrained by one theme, or one goal. Institutions and organizations across the board, including BRIC, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Lincoln Center, and even the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation will be hosting special performances, interactive events, job fairs, and educational programming as part of the festival.
The festival is meant to invite New Yorkers of all stripes to come together as they continue to recover from an incredibly difficult two years while looking ahead to a future that’s gentler, more equitable, and more inclusive to everyone.
“Our arts and culture sector makes up the heart of New York City’s comeback story, and I’m thrilled to join these 200+ partners from all sectors and corners of our city to celebrate what makes New York City the cultural capital of the world,” said Maria Torres-Springer, the Big Apple’s deputy mayor for economic and workforce development. “This is an opportunity to celebrate the talent, music, history, and communities that have shaped the character of New York City – and work collectively to chart a stronger, inclusive future for all of us.”
On Aug. 6, Brooklynites can join their neighbors in all five boroughs in a big outdoor dance party spearheaded by the Brooklyn Public Library, the New York Public Library and the Queens Public Library. Dozens of library locations and other cultural sites will take part in an afternoon of music, dancing, and celebrating the city and, of course, its expansive library systems.
Music has always been an important component of BPL’s programming, said Meredith Walters, the library’s Director of Programs and Exhibitions. At the dance party, planned for the BPL’s central branch in Prospect Park, they’ll welcome back one particular artist who’s always been a hit with Brooklynites.
“We’ll have a DJ named Max Glazer from a great organization called Federation Sound that focuses on reggae music,” said Meredith Walters, director of programs and exhibitions at BPL. “It’s a lot of fun, people are dancing, we’ve had people pull over their cars on the side of Eastern Parkway and join the dance party before.”
Live music and performance will feature throughout the summer under the umbrella of the Festival of New York, Walters said, after two years of largely-virtual events.
The library-centered dance party and other programs aren’t strictly a celebration of a “return” of the library, noted Fritzi Bodenheimer, BPL’s press officer. Hundreds of librarians have worked round-the-block throughout the pandemic, brainstorming and hosting online events, putting together grab-and-go activities, and maintaining one of the city’s only true public spaces once they reopened.
“Our librarians have done an extraordinary amount of things outside the job,” she said. “Before a lot of businesses got this idea that ‘Hey, we could be outside,’ the library was already doing storytime outside. We’ve just continued to grow and grow and grow.”
Of course, the festival is also about the resilience of New Yorkers and their beloved home, embodied by the city’s adaptable and dedicated library employees.
Another community partner, the Alliance For Coney Island, will also be hosting a dance party on Aug. 6, said Alexandra Silversmith, the organization’s executive director. The exact details of their celebration are still being hammered out — the months leading into the summer are packed with planning for the summer ahead at Coney Island — but she’s excited to welcome regulars and newcomers alike to the boardwalk with music, dancing and joy.
“We just think it will be a nice way for people to enjoy themselves if they’re going on some rides, maybe just to hang out,” she said. “Also, obviously, great people watching in Coney Island. Coney Island is truly like the melting pot of New York, we’re hoping we’ll have some music and a DJ who’s sort of representing that.”
Silversmith first heard about the festival when a colleague at Lincoln Center reached out to see if she’d be interested in taking part, she said. She was intrigued mostly because she’s always looking to bring new forms of art and entertainment to the neighborhood, and a citywide, collaborative celebration seemed like a great place to make those connections.
“I have dreams of having ballet or Alvin Ailey on the boardwalk, just things that are unusual that you wouldn’t find anywhere else,” she said. “It’s helped us connect with entities that we could have researched, but it makes it a lot easier when you have that connection.”
The Alliance is waiting to receive an Open Streets permit so they can expand their summertime activities, so more plans for the festival are still in the works.
“We love our keystone events that happen year over year, and those traditions are really amazing,” Silversmith said. “That’s why we’re trying to see if there are any new things, new types of events that we can bring and try to attract new people. There’s obviously a lot of nostalgia for people, who, their grandparents came here growing up, or they’ve heard stories. But Brooklyn has changed a lot, what Coney Island has to offer has changed. It’s just something where I’m really excited to expand the horizon.”
The city’s small businesses will also be highlighted throughout the summer on “Small Business Weekends.” On Tompkins Avenue, the Tompkins Avenue Merchants Association, Bridge Street Development Corporation, and Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce will sponsor “Black Girl Magic Weekend,” shining a spotlight on the 14 businesses owned by Black women along the avenue.
“This movement is about sparking the very best of what New Yorkers can create when we work together,” said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso. “To all the naysayers who thought we were down, that New York would never be the same — you were right about the last part. We are coming back from this pandemic ever stronger, ever prouder of our City and ever more committed to the great impact we must make together.”
More programs and events will be announced as Memorial Day approaches, with fitness events, outings in the city’s parks, and more on the docket. New York Liberty will take part with a series of events in and around the city in addition to their regularly scheduled games at Barclays Center.
“We just hope to see a lot of smiling faces,” Silversmith said. “We’re excited to have everybody enjoying themselves in the fresh air and sunshine in Coney Island and enjoying themselves, because it’s been really rough, to say the least.”