New York City

Spurred by city funds, arts organizations have built and expanded all over town

Photo by Jeff Mermelstein

Click the image above to view a slide show of New York's new arts spaces.

In the last decade, the New York building boom spread to museums and performing arts organizations, with the construction or renovation of facilities all over the city. Thanks to years of a strong economy, there were generous private donors. But there was also a new patron for capital funds: the city itself. In 1998, then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani announced the city would pay 10 percent of the projected construction costs for the expansion of the Museum of Modern Art, designed by Yoshio Taniguchi. That $65 million was the first major bricks-and-mortar contribution from New York City’s Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) to a non-city-owned project. Since 2002, the DCA has helped fund some 600 cultural construction projects, dispensing a total of $1.8 billion. “Funding culture has a huge economic impact in terms of both tourism and quality of life,” says DCA commissioner Kate Levin.

Here are the numbers: 21.4 million tourists visited New York’s arts institutions last year and left a $21 billion contribution to the city’s economy behind. New cultural buildings have helped transform neighborhoods, too — just look at how the New Museum, which opened a building by the Tokyo firm, SANAA, in 2007, has glamorized a once-gritty stretch of the Bowery. And despite the economic downturn, the DCA still has $600 to $700 million to spend on capital projects before the Bloomberg administration exits the stage in 2013.

What follows here is a glimpse of the impact of all that new architecture for the arts — as well as a look at the visitors and New Yorkers who flock to it to see the city’s exhibitions, screenings, and performances, or, often, just to hang out.