Manhattan's Theatre District's pro-arts incumbents for the state Senate and Assembly appear to be in strong positions for re-election.
They are led by Sens. Roy M. Goodman (R-Dist. 26), who has served in the Senate for 28 years, and Catherine M. Abate (D/L-Dist. 27), who is completing her second year.
Goodman's district may lie east of the Theatre District, but his positive influence over arts funding is undeniable. He is chairman of the senate Special Committee on the Arts and Cultural Affairs. During the '96 legislative session, while each house made headlines by breaking their own record for late budget approvals, Goodman steadily moved the $32.4 million arts budget--$3.4 million higher than Gov. George Pataki's recommendation--through the Senate.
He also co-sponsored a statewide gathering of arts advocates who went to Albany in the spring to ask legislators for increased funding.
Instrumental in line-item arts funding, he has obtained special appropriations for a number of Manhattan arts institutions, including Carnegie Hall, City Center Theatre, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Metropolitan and New York City operas, the Vivian Beaumont Theater, and the New York Shakespeare Festival.
This year also ended Goodman's 11 years as an ambassador to the National Endowment for the Arts, in which he communicated with New York's congressional delegation to encourage continued federal funding of the arts. "We fought for the very existence of the [National Endowment for the Arts] and freedom of expression," Goodman said, referring to Congress' reduction of arts funding, and conservatives' attempts to eliminate the NEA.
Goodman has two opponents, attorney Robert Bellinson, a Democrat; and Green Party candidate Robert Polhemus. Bellinson is a Manhattan resident who works in White Plains for a law firm whose name he chose not to divulge. He told Back Stage, "I am a big fan of the arts, and it would be an honor and pleasure to continue support for the arts as a state senator. I would fight to keep funding for the arts as nonpartisan as possible, without any political censorship." He said he had no specific legislation in mind to introduce if elected.
Bellinson, 32, said he has experience in the executive and judicial branches of state government, but didn't elaborate.
The Green Party's Polhemus told Back Stage, "I am a performing artist." Polhemus played guitar, harmonica, and lead guitar, and sang for two popular '60s rock 'n' roll groups. The first, the Teemmates, NYC's answer to the Beatles, went on the field and played at halftime of the first New York Jets games. He then played with Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, before going it on his own as Calumet, an Indian word for "peace." He said he still performs, but primarily on the West Coast.
Polhemus expressed his deep concern about federal funding cutbacks to the arts, and about a pervading censorship mood which has reached down from Congress to state and local government. He said that "misdirected thinking" by public officials led him to run for office.
Polhemus said he would sponsor legislation to tax "environmentally destructive packaging" and designate the monies for the arts.
Abate's Arts Advocacy
A major portion of Abate's jurisdiction includes the Theatre District and the Off-Off-Broadway theatres of Lower Manhattan.
In response to theatre and other artists in her district, in March of this year Abate provided "Resources for the Arts," a printed guide to advocacy, development, and funding for the arts. It was researched and published by her staff.
Dan Lowenstein, Abate's chief of staff, emphasized, "We fought very hard to get the loft law passed." This state law protects about 10,000 loft residents, the bulk of them in lower Manhattan. It was set to expire in July during the legislature's concentration on budget battles. The lawmakers approved the protective legislation before adjourning.
Abate is unopposed in the Nov. 2 election.
Assembly Candidates Quiet
Candidates in the 64th and 66th Districts, essentially Midtown and Lower Manhattan, appear to have moved quietly toward election day.
Assemblywoman Deborah J. Glick (D/L-Dist. 66) is facing Republican Alice Peterson. Glick was elected to the Assembly in 1990. According to her press aide, Maureen Casey, Glick "has worked to explain to the Assembly how the arts is an industry here in New York City much like Kodak is an industry in Rochester; and how one person writing a play can lead to thousands of jobs, and so support of individual artists is important."
Glick also expressed to Back Stage her concern about cutbacks in arts funding. "There has always been state-sponsored and state-commissioned art," Glick stressed. "Many of our masterpieces are a result of marvelous state leaders, either princes or kings who have historically been patrons. In a republic, obviously things are different, but still there are various ways we can support and subsidize artistic endeavor; and I'm fully in support of assuring that more, not less, support is granted to the arts, for many reasons, not the least of which is that they are an enormous part of our economic vitality."
Glick said she was ready to help lead a fight to increase arts funding at the state level, but added, "It will be a hard fight" because of "ill-advised tax cuts which disproportionately favor the upper brackets while not reducing the tax burden on already struggling artists."
A call to Peterson wasn't returned by press time.
Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (D/L-Dist. 64) is unopposed. His press aide, Wendi Paster, said that Gottfried has supported the arts since he first came to the Assembly in 1970. She emphasized that the Theatre District is under his legislative wing, and he has fought against cuts and for increases in arts funding.
Gottfried also chairs the assembly Health Committee, which fully restored the Pataki administration's cutbacks in the HIV uninsured care program known as ADAP. The program provides drugs and other services to about 10,000 uninsured peopl