As one of the first and hardest hit American cities, COVID-19 had a devastating impact on New York City. All five boroughs felt the impact of this global pandemic and for the first time in a long time, the city sat in an unfamiliar stillness for weeks, even months as offices were closed, schools shut, and theaters went dark. Before long, people began to ask the unthinkable: Is New York City dead?
There’s only one answer to that question: Never bet against New York City.
And never, ever bet against the Bronx. Even during the darkest months of the pandemic, our borough didn’t miss a beat. Last year with social distancing in place, we hosted our annual Bronx Summer Concert Series, and in the South Bronx, the Pregones Theater hosted Stage Garden Rhumba that transformed our community gardens into open spaces for poetry readings and folk dance performances. Additionally, through a partnership with the New York Philharmonic, Casita Maria Center for the Arts and Education presented their 10th Annual South Bronx Cultural Trail Festival performances.
Now, life is slowly but surely returning to the city. Daily subway passenger numbers are increasing, offices are gradually filling up, and schools are approaching normalcy. But New York City is America’s beating cultural heart, with arts and entertainment making up a huge portion of the city’s economy and employing more than 400,000 New Yorkers, so no recovery would be complete without the cultural sector.
But this doesn’t happen magically. It takes effort. And that’s why I am proud to support Festival of New York, a citywide movement that aims to bring the city back to life with a summer full of educational, cultural, economic and just-for-fun engagements.
This is a citywide effort – and the Bronx certainly pulls its weight. Our contributions come from partners like The New York Botanical Garden, The Bronx Museum of the Arts, Mind-Builders Creative Arts Center, Bronx Council on the Arts, Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance and the Bronx River Arts Center. Together with FNY, Bronx-based partners have put together incredible events including My History, My Power, My Legacy and The Ferragosto Festival.
These borough champions join more than 300 other institutions across the city to make the Festival of New York a truly citywide event. Never-before-seen collaborations such as the Career Fair and the Citywide Dance Party breathe life back into New York City this summer.
Whether you hail from the Caribbean, Central or South America, Africa, Asia or Europe, we together make up the fabric that is New York City, and after months of separation, time has demonstrated how much stronger we are together than apart. As we faced real challenges, we recognized our vulnerabilities and our strengths and learned to take a stand and support one another. It is our strength that makes us who we are as a City. I look forward to celebrating with each of you as we, through the Festival of New York look to build a more equitable and inclusive future together.
Vanessa Gibson is the Bronx borough president, who took office on Jan. 1, 2021.