MetroFocus

FULL EPISODE

MetroFocus: November 17, 2020

Greg David, Fiscal and Economics reporter at The City discusses the dire financial future that awaits us in 2021 and whether federal aid can fill the state’s $8 billion hole. Also, more than 300 theater artists- Black, Indigenous and people of color- have joined the intense national conversation concerning race- decrying racial injustice in their industry.

AIRED: November 17, 2020 | 0:28:16
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
TRANSCRIPT

>>> THIS IS "METROFOCUS" WITH

RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD, AND

JENNA FLANAGAN.

>> "METROFOCUS" IS MADE POSSIBLE

BY --

SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III,

SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA

PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT

ANTI-SEMITISM.

BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ,

BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG,

JANET PRINDLE SEIDLER,

JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD,

CHERYL AND PHILIP MILSTEIN

FAMILY,

JUDY AND JOSH WESTON,

DR. ROBERT C. AND TINA SOHN

FOUNDATION.

>>> FUNDING FOR CHASING THE

DREAM IS PROVIDED BY -- THE JDD

FOUNDATION.

ADDITIONAL FUNDING FOR "CHASING

THE DREAM" IS PROVIDED BY

SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III,

.

>>> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO

"METROFOCUS."

I'M RAFAEL PI ROMAN.

MANY OF NEW YORK'S TOP OFFICIALS

WERE BANKING ON A JOE BIDEN

VICTORY TO SAVE THE CITY AND THE

STATE FOR THEIR CURRENT AND

GROWING ECONOMIC PROBLEMS.

BUT JUST HOW BAD IS THE

SITUATION BROUGHT ON BY THE

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC?

HOW MUCH OF THIS CRISIS CAN BE

DEALT WITH BY THE STATE AND CITY

GOVERNMENTS?

AND JUST EXACTLY WHAT CAN A

BIDEN ADMINISTRATION DO TO BAIL

US OUT?

JOINING ME TO ANSWER THESE AND

OTHER QUESTIONS IS GREG DAVID, A

CONTRIBUTOR COVERING FISCAL AND

ECONOMIC ISSUES FOR "THE CITY,"

AN ONLINE NEWS OUTLET FOCUSING

ON THE CITY.

GREG, WELCOME BACK TO THE

PROGRAM.

>> THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

>> FIRST OF ALL, WHAT IS THE

GENERAL ECONOMIC SITUATION OF

NEW YORK RIGHT NOW?

>> IT'S BAD, AND IT'S BAD

BECAUSE NEW YORK HAS BEEN HIT

HARDER THAN MOST OTHER PLACES IN

THE COUNTRY.

THE NUMBERS ARE REALLY

STARTLING.

SINCE FEBRUARY WE LOST 700,000

JOBS.

YOU KNOW, THAT'S THE EXACT

NUMBER WE LOST IN THE GREAT DARK

PERIOD OF NEW YORK FROM 1969 TO

1977.

OUR UNEMPLOYMENT RATE IS ALMOST

TWICE THE NATION'S, AND EVEN

WITHIN NEW YORK STATE, NEW YORK

CITY IS DOING WORSE THAN THE

REST OF THE STATE.

THE FIVE COUNTIES IN THE STATE

THAT HAVE THE HIGHEST

UNEMPLOYMENT RATES ARE THE FIVE

BOROUGHS OF NEW YORK.

A MONTH AGO OUR UNEMPLOYMENT

RATE WAS 14.1%.

WE GET NORM NUMBER LATER IN THE

WEEK.

I DON'T THINK IT WILL BE VERY

MUCH BETTER.

>> SO WITHIN NEW YORK CITY, WHAT

ARE THE BUSINESSES AND WHAT ARE

THE BOROUGHS THAT ARE DOING THE

WORST ECONOMICALLY?

>> WELL, THE ONE THAT'S MOST

OBVIOUS, AND THAT IS ANYTHING

RELATED TO TOURISM.

YOU KNOW, THIS WAS THE GREAT

STRENGTH WE HAD BUILT IN THE

CITY, THIS ENORMOUS TOURISM

INDUSTRY.

330,000 JOBS, AND IT HELPED TO

DIVERSIFY OUR ECONOMY AWAY FROM

WALL STREET.

YOU KNOW, THE OTHER THING IS IT

REALLY PROVIDED A LOT OF JOBS

FOR PEOPLE WITHOUT GREAT SKILLS,

PEOPLE AT THE LOWER END OF THE

INCOME LEVEL.

WELL, IT'S BEEN DEVASTATED.

WE HAVE NEW CITIES FROM THE

TOURISM INDUSTRY, THEY DON'T

EXPECT A RECOVERY IN SEVERAL

YEARS.

THAT'S ONE MAJOR REASONS.

OBVIOUSLY, RESTAURANTS ARE

SUFFERING.

THEY'RE SUFFERING IN PART

BECAUSE OF THE TOURISM DECLINE.

THEY'RE SUFFERING IN PART

BECAUSE PEOPLE ARE WORRIED

EATING INSIDE ISN'T SAFE, AND,

FRANKLY, WE'RE NOT CLEAR THAT IT

IS.

RETAILING OBVIOUSLY SUFFERED.

IT SUFFERED BECAUSE OF THE

SHUTDOWN AND NOW IT'S SUFFERING

BECAUSE THE REST OF THE ECONOMY

AND THE CITY IS NOT IN GOOD

SHAPE.

AS FOR BOROUGHS, WELL, IT'S

ABOUT THE BRONX.

THE BRONX HAS A 20% UNEMPLOYMENT

RATE.

THAT'S GREAT DEPRESSION LEVELS.

I HAVE BEEN IN THE BRONX.

I HAVE WRITTEN STORIES ABOUT IT.

THERE'S TREMENDOUS FOOD I

SECURITY IN THE BRONX AND

THERE'S AN ENORMOUS HOUSING

CRISIS COMING BECAUSE PEOPLE

AREN'T PAYING THEIR RENT AND

WHEN THE EVICTION MORATORIUM IS

LIFTED, IT COULD BE A DISASTER.

>> WHAT ABOUT THE COMMERCIAL

REAL ESTATE MARKET, ESPECIALLY

IN MANHATTAN?

IT'S PRETTY EVIDENT THAT EVEN

AFTER THE PANDEMIC IS OVER, A

LOT OF EMPLOYEES ARE GOING TO

CONTINUE TO WORK FROM HOME.

WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN TO ALL OF

THIS COMMERCIAL SPACE IN NEW

YORK, AND WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN

TO THE PEOPLE WHO OWN THEM?

>> I'M NOT PREPARED TO SAY

PEOPLE WILL CONTINUE TO WORK

FROM HOME.

AND I'M NOT PREPARED TO SAY THAT

BECAUSE THE GREAT STORY OF NEW

YORK'S ENORMOUS ECONOMIC BOON OF

THE LAST 15 YEARS OR SO IT

BECAUSE PEOPLE WANTED TO WORK

TOGETHER.

THAT'S WHY WE BUILT THIS GREAT

TECH INDUSTRY IN NEW YORK.

THEY CAME TO NEW YORK BECAUSE

THEY WANTED TO BE IN A PHYSICAL

LOCATION WHERE THEIR BUSINESSES

WOULD THRIVE.

BUT IF YOU'RE RIGHT, THERE'S

GOING TO BE BIG TROUBLE.

WE HAVE 5 MILLION SQUARE FEET OF

OFFICE SPACE.

IF WE DON'T NEED IT, I DON'T

KNOW WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO IT.

OR THE FINANCE OF PEOPLE WHO

BUILT THOSE BUILDINGS, OR WHAT

WILL HAPPEN ON THE BUSINESSES

WHO THRIVE ON ALL OF THESE

PEOPLE COMING INTO THE CENTRAL

BUSINESS DISTRICT.

THE LONG-TERM CONSEQUENCES WOULD

BE ENORMOUS.

I'M JUST NOT PREPARED TO GO

THERE YET BECAUSE I DON'T THINK

WE KNOW EXACTLY WHAT'S GOING TO

HAPPEN.

>> SO TALK ABOUT THE FISCAL

SITUATION OF THE STATE AND THE

CITY, HOW RED ARE THE BUDGETS?

>> WELL, THAT'S AN INTERESTING

THING BECAUSE POLITICIANS, THE

GOVERNOR AND MAYOR IN

PARTICULAR, KEEP SAYING THEY'RE

DIRE.

AND YOU KNOW WHAT, THEY'RE NOT

QUITE SO DIRE.

ESPECIALLY WE'VE GOTTEN SOME

VERY NEW INFORMATION THAT WOULD

SUGGEST THAT.

NOW, PEOPLE KEEP TALKING ABOUT

THE REVENUE LOSS, THE AMOUNT OF

REVENUE THAT HAS DECLINED FROM

FEBRUARY FROM OUR EXPECTATIONS.

BUT THAT'S NOT WHAT WE SHOULD BE

TALKING ABOUT.

WE SHOULD BE TALKING ABOUT THE

FORECASTS THAT WERE MADE ONCE

THE PANDEMIC HIT.

AT THE STATE LEVEL, CUOMO CLAIMS

THERE'S AN $8 BILLION HOLE IN

THE CURRENT BUDGET.

WELL, HIS TAX PROJECTIONS

SUGGEST THAT TAX COLLECTIONS

WILL BE $4 BILLION MORE THAN HE

EXPECTS.

SO IT'S A $4 BILLION HOLE.

BY THE WAY, HE SQUIRRELED ENOUGH

MONEY AWAY TO HANDLE IT.

WE JUST FOUND OUT THIS WEEK THAT

THE CITY HAS COLLECTED MORE THAN

A BILLION DOLLARS, ABOUT A

BILLION DOLLARS MORE THAN IT

EXPECTED, WHICH MEANS THAT ITS

BUDGET, WHICH IS ACTUALLY

PRECARIOUSLY BALANCED, IS IN A

LITTLE BETTER SHAPE THAN WE

THOUGHT.

THAT'S NOT TO SAY WE DON'T NEED

FEDERAL AID, BECAUSE THE MTA IS

IN TERRIBLE SHAPE, BECAUSE NO

ONE'S RIDING THE MTA -- OR NOT

ENOUGH PEOPLE ARE RIDING THE

MTA, AND THAT'S A BIG PROBLEM.

WHAT'S INTERESTING IS THE

NEAR-TERM PROBLEM ISN'T GREAT

BUT THE LONG-TERM PROBLEM IS

SEVERE AND THAT'S BECAUSE WE'RE

GOING TO HAVE A VERY SLOW

ECONOMIC RECOVERY.

BECAUSE WE'RE GOING TO HAVE A

SLOW ECONOMIC RECOVERY, TAX

REVENUES ARE GOING TO FALTER.

SO LIGHTNING TERM WE HAVE A VERY

SERIOUS PROBLEM.

BUT THE IMMEDIATE PROBLEM IS NOT

AS BAD AS IT'S BEING PORTRAYED.

>> BUT LET'S LOOK AT THE

LONG-TERM PROBLEM THEN BEFORE WE

GET TO WHAT AN BIDEN

ADMINISTRATION CAN DO TO HELP ON

THAT, TELL US QUICKLY WHAT LOCAL

OFFICIALS, WHAT THE MAYOR AND

CITY COUNCIL AND ALBANY

LEGISLATURE AND GOVERNOR ARE

DOING AND PROPOSE TO DO TO

TACKLE THOSE PROBLEMS ON OUR

OWN.

>> LET'S TALK ABOUT THE MAYOR

FIRST.

REMEMBER, BILL de BLASIO, BILL

de BLASIO'S EXPANSION OF CITY

GOVERNMENT PUSHED THE NUMBER OF

CITY EMPLOYEES TO AN ALL-TIME

RECORD, WELL INTO THE 300,000s.

AND HE'S COMPLETELY RESISTANT TO

MAKING ANY CHANGES IN THAT

NUMBER.

AND EVERY FISCAL EXPERT I TALKED

TO SAYS FOR THE LONG TERM, WE

HAVE TO MAKE CITY GOVERNMENT

MORE EFFICIENT AND REDUCE THE

COST.

HE'S DONE ANOTHER THING, WHICH

IS REALLY TERRIBLE.

AND THAT IS HE SAID THE LABOR

UNIONS HAVE TO GIVE HIM A

BILLION DOLLARS IN CONCESSION.

SO WHAT YOU -- YOU COULD GET TWO

KINDS OF CONCESSIONS, YOU CAN

GET RECURRING CONCESSIONS THAT

REALLY LOWER THE COST, OR YOU

CAN GET ONE-YEAR DEALS AND HE'S

GOING FOR ONE-YEAR DEALS.

SO THE UNIONS HAVE AGREED NOT TO

TAKE MONEY THIS YEAR THAT

THEY'LL GET NEXT YEAR.

THIS IS FISCAL IRRESPONSIBILITY

AT THE HIGHEST LEVEL.

>> SO WHAT IS THE GOVERNOR

DOING?

>> THE GOVERNOR, THE GOVERNOR

KEEPS SAYING THAT HE'S GOT THIS

$8 BILLION HOLE.

HE'S WITHHOLDING 20% OF AID TO

LOCAL GOVERNMENTS, WITHHOLDING,

NOT CUTTING, WITHHOLDING.

BUT HE'S VERY CAREFULLY

ACCUMULATING CASH.

HE'S GOT RESERVES EARMARKED.

HE'S GOT THINGS HE WAS GOING TO

SPEND MONEY ON.

HE IS REDUCING STATE EMPLOYMENT

AND HE'S FROZEN WAGES AT THE

STATE.

SO HE'S TAKEN A LOT OF NEAR-TERM

E6R89S

EFFORTS THAT WILL REALLY HELP

THIS YEAR.

BUT IF REVENUES ARE GOING TO

DECLINE LONG TERM, THE STATE

BUDGET WOULD NEED TO BE PAIRED

AS WELL.

>> LET'S TALK ABOUT WHAT A BIDEN

ADMINISTRATION CAN DO TO HELP US

OUT.

WHAT COULD IT DO?

>> IT CAN HELP US BY GETTING US

FEDERAL AID.

LOOK, A BIDEN ADMINISTRATION AND

DEMOCRATIC SENATE WOULD HAVE

BEEN GREAT NEWS FOR NEW YORK,

AND I SAY THAT NOT FROM A

PARTISAN PROSPECTIVE BUT

ANALYTICAL PERSPECTIVE.

BOTH SIDE, IF IT WENT DEMOCRATIC

OR IT GOES DEMOCRATIC AFTER THE

GEORGIA RUNOFFS, WE WILL SEE

STABILITY AMOUNTS OF FEDERAL

AID.

ONE SET OF FEDERAL AID WILL GO

TO THE GOVERNMENTS, AND THAT

WILL HELP WITH THE FISCAL

PROBLEM.

BUT WE ALSO NEED AID FOR THE

UNEMPLOYED.

AT ONE POINT IF YOU'RE AN

UNEMPLOYED PERSON IN NEW YORK,

YOU GOT AN EXTRA $600 IN YOUR

CHECK AND THAT REALLY DID A LOT

TO SUPPORT THE CITY'S ECONOMY.

NOW YOU ONLY GET WHAT YOU GET

UNDER REGULAR UNEMPLOYMENT.

ANOTHER ALMOST A MILLION PEOPLE

IN NEW YORK STATE ARE GETTING

WHAT'S CALLED PANDEMIC

UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE, THE GIG

ECONOMY WORKERS, FREELANCERS.

THEY NEVER QUALIFIED FOR

UNEMPLOYMENT BEFORE.

THEY'RE NOW GETTING $600 A WEEK.

BUT THAT WILL END ON DECEMBER 31

IF CONGRESS DOESN'T ACT.

THE BEST GUESS AT THE MOMENT,

WE'LL GET SOME AID BUT NOT AS

MUCH AID AS IF THERE WERE A

DEMOCRATIC SENATE.

>> YEAH, WHAT HAPPENS IF WE

DON'T GET A DEMOCRATIC SENATE?

THE GOVERNOR, YOU KNOW, ONE OF

HIS PLANS IS TO GET HELP FROM

BIDEN, AND IF WE DON'T GET A

DEMOCRATIC SENATE, OUR HANDS,

OUR FATE IS TIED TO THE VOTERS

OF GEORGIA, I GUESS.

AND EVEN IF BIDEN BECOMES

PRESIDENT AS EVERYONE EXPECTS,

THAT'S STILL ONLY TWO MONTHS

AWAY.

WHAT ARE WE SEEING IN THE NEXT

FEW MONTHS?

>> THEN YOU HAVE TO READ MITCH

McCONNELL'S MIND.

I DON'T KNOW I QUALIFY TO DO

THAT, BUT MY GUESS, McCONNELL

WILL MAKE A DEAL.

THERE WILL BE SOME AID, JUST NOT

AS MUCH AID.

BUT THERE IS AN ALTERNATIVE IN

THAT HE ADOPTS A SCORCHED EARTH

POLICY, TRIES TO FRUSTRATE THE

BIDEN ADMINISTRATION AT

ENVIREVERY

TURN.

THAT WOULD BE REALLY BAD NEWS.

I'M BETTING ON A DEAL.

>> BY THE WAY, DO YOU THINK

THERE WILL BE A REPEAL OF THE

CAP ON DEDUCTIONS FOR LOCAL AND

STATE TAXES THAT TRUMP PASSED

FOR THE TAX CUTS A COUPLE YEARS

AGO?

>> IF THERE'S A DEMOCRATIC

SENATE.

>> OKAY.

SO, YOU KNOW, WORD IS OUT --

WORD IS THAT THE VACCINES THAT

ARE ALMOST READY TO GO ARE OVER

90% EFFECTIVE AND THEY MAY BE

GOING INTO EFFECT NEXT MONTH.

IF THAT HAPPENS, IS THAT A GAME

CHANGER FOR US IN NEW YORK,

ASSUMING THAT PRESIDENT TRUMP

AND GOVERNOR CUOMO GET OVER

THEIR VACCINE FEUD?

>> WELL, THE VACCINE WILL COME

IN JANUARY ANYWAY, RIGHT?

YES, IT DEFINITELY IS A

GAME-CHANGER.

LOOK, I CAN'T WAIT TO GET BACK

TO MY OFFICE.

I'M PROHIBITED FROM GOING TO MY

OFTS, LITERALLY PROHIBITED.

TOURISM DEPENDS ON THAT VACCINE

AND THAT PEOPLE THINK IT'S

WORKING.

IT IS A GAME CHANGER.

IT HAS TO BE EFFECTIVE.

PEOPLE HAVE TO TAKE IT.

AND THEN WE'LL SEE WHETHER THERE

ARE LONG-TERM CHANGES IN THE

ECONOMY OR NOT.

THAT'S THE BIG QUESTION.

BUT WE NOW KNOW CLEARLY PEOPLE

AREN'T GOING BACK TO THE OFFICE

UNTIL THERE'S A VACCINE, UNTIL

THEY FEEL SAFE.

T

TOURISTS AREN'T COMING TO NEW

YORK UNTIL THEY FEEL SAFE.

JUST WATCH BROADWAY.

WHEN BROADWAY REOPENS, IF PEOPLE

ARE WILLING TO SIT THERE, THAT

WILL TELL US EVERYTHING.

TWO-THIRDS OF ALL TICKETS ON

BROADWAY ARE BOUGHT BY TOURISTS.

TOURISTS COME TO NEW YORK

BECAUSE OF BROADWAY.

IT WILL TELL US A LOT.

I HOPE IT'S A GAME-CHANGER

ANYWAY.

>> ALL RIGHT.

WE'VE GOT 15, 20 SECONDS.

IF THAT VACCINE DOESN'T HAPPEN,

AND IN FACT WE GET A HEAVIER

LOCKDOWN BECAUSE OF THE RISING

COVID CASES, WHAT WILL THAT DO

IN ABOUT 30 SECONDS?

>> I'M GOING TO RUN A STORY

ABOUT THAT NEXT WEEK, AND IT'S

GOING TO BE BAD NEWS.

BAD NEWS.

THAT'S ALL YOU CAN SAY.

>> I USUALLY LIKE TO END ON GOOD

NEWS, AND THERE MAY BE GOOD

NEWS.

GREG, THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR

JOINING US TODAY.

IT'S ALWAYS A PLEASURE TO TALK

TO YOU.

>> THANK YOU.

>>> WELCOME TO "METROFOCUS."

I'M JACK FORD.

IT HAS BEEN MONTHS SINCE THE

LIGHTS ON BROADWAY WENT OUT BUT

EVEN DURING THAT PERIOD OF TIME,

THAT PERIOD OF DARKNESS,

BROADWAY HAS NOT BEEN IMMUNE TO

THE INTENSE CONVERSATION

CONCERNING RACE THAT HAS ARISEN

IN THE AFTERMATH OF THE DEATH OF

GEORGE FLOYD AT THE HANDS OF

MINNEAPOLIS POLICE OFFICERS.

THE BROADWAY ADVOCACY COALITION

IS A GROUP THAT'S BEEN AT THE

FOREFRONT OF THAT CONVERSATION,

NOT JUST RECENTLY BUT SINCE IT

WAS GUN BACK IN 2016.

WE'RE PLEASED TO HAVE JOINING US

NOW BRITAIN SMITH, AN ACCLAIMED

ACTOR AND ALSO FOUNDER AND

PRESIDENT OF THE BROADWAY

ADVOCACY COALITION.

WELCOME TO YOU.

THANK YOU FOR JOINING US.

>> THANK YOU, JACK.

THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

>> THERE ARE A LOT OF ISSUES TO

TALK ABOUT.

BUT LET'S START WITH THE

COALITION.

AS I MENTIONED, THIS IS NOT NEW

FOR THE CONVERSATION.

BACK IN 2016 YOU WERE ONE OF THE

CO-FOUNDERS.

WHAT'S THE IMPETUS FOR THE

CREATION?

>> A FEW OF US WERE IN A SHOW

CALLED "SHUFFLE ALONG."

IN 2016 THERE WAS A BIG

OPPORTUNITY TO BE ON A STAGE

WITH MUCH SMI BLACK HEROES,

ROGER McDONALD, BILLY PORTER,

RYAN STOKES MITCHELL, HUGE NAMES

THAT I HAVE ALWAYS LOOKED UP TO,

TO BE A PART OF.

SO IT WAS A MOMENT WHERE I FELT

LIKE, MAN, I REALLY HAVE SOME

SKIN IN THE GAME.

I'M REALLY A PART OF SOMETHING

GREAT.

AND MY BLACKNESS IS CELEBRATED

HERE.

AS YOU KNOW, MOST OF OUR

AUDIENCE MEMBERS ON BROADWAY ARE

ALL WHITE.

SO WE HAVE TO DO THE JOB OF

BEING EXCELLENT BEHIND STAGE, ON

STAGE AND SERVED OURSELVES IN A

PREDOMINANTLY WHITE AUDIENCE,

AND THEN LEAVE THE STAGE AND BE

FORCED TO UNDERSTAND THAT POLICE

BRUTALITY TREATS YOU DIFFERENTLY

THAN THE HANDCLAP OF PEOPLE

WATCHING YOU PERFORM.

SO AFTER ERIC GARNER'S DEATH,

OUR ENTIRE CAST AND CREW WERE

LIKE STRUGGLING TO FIGURE OUT

WHAT'S OUR ROLE BEYOND

PERFORMING THAT PARTICIPATE IN

THE MOVEMENT?

AT THE TIME IT WAS BLACK LIVES

MATTER, BLACK LIVES MATTER

EVERYWHERE.

SO WE WERE TRYING TO FIGURE OUT

WHAT'S OUR ROLE BEYOND

PERFORMING, AND WE CREATED THIS

EVENT CALLED BROADWAY FOR BLACK

LIVES MATTER.

IN THE BROADWAY WORLD, THERE ARE

MANY ORGANIZATIONS THAT SUPPORT

THE LGBTQ COMMUNITY.

WE SUE MOPPORT THE HOMELESS YOU

MANY INITIATIVES.

BUT THERE WAS NO NISINITIATIVE T

I CAN THINK OF SINCE 2016 FOR

ANTI-RACISM, PLACE BRUTALITY,

MASS INCARCERATION.

SO WE PRODUCED THIS EVENT CALLED

BROADWAY FOR BLACK LIVES MATTER

AND DECIDED THAT IT WAS TIME FOR

US TO STOP JUST SINGING AND

RAISING MONEY AND TIME TO USE

OUR RAGE AND CONFUSION TO RAISE

OUR OWN AWARENESS OF WHAT ARE

THOSE POLICIES IN PLACE THAT

ALLOWED THAT POLICE OFFICER DO

WHAT WE ALL SAW HIM DO AND GET

OFF?

WHAT ARE THE LAWS IN PLACE TO

KEEP FOLKS FROM THE LIBERTIES WE

WOULD ALL LIKE TO HAVE?

SO WE STARTED THIS ORGANIZATION

WITH COLUMBIA LAW SCHOOL, THAT'S

BEEN AN AMAZING, AMAZING

RESOURCE FOR US TO USE TO

UNDERSTAND THE POWER OF LAW AND

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU BRING

LAWYERS AND ARTISTS INTO A ROOM

WITH PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN LIKE

PREVIOUSLY INCARCERATED AND

WHAT'S THAT RELATIONSHIP?

SO WE HAVE THIS METHODOLOGY THAT

INVOLVED ALL OF THESE

STAKEHOLDERS AROUND MASS

INCARCERATION TO GET INTO A ROOM

AND DISCUSS WHERE THIS CHANGE

HAPPENED IN MASS INCARCERATION,

WHERE DOES IT COME FROM?

WHAT IDEAS ARE ROOTED IN ITS

POLICIES?

AND THEN WE TRY TO USE ART TO

CHALLENGE THAT.

>> LET ME ASK YOU, I'M GOING TO

ASK YOU SOME MORE ABOUT WHAT

YOUR ORGANIZATION IS DOING.

LET ME START WITH SOMETHING

THAT'S BEEN LITERALLY AND

FIGURATIVELY A HEADLINE THIS

WEEK AND THAT IS A LETTER,

PUBLIC LETTER, PUBLISHED OVER

THE SIGNATURES OF SOME 300-PLUS

THEATER ARTISTS.

>> YES.

>> THE TITLE OF THAT LETTER WAS

"WE SEE YOU, WHITE AMERICAN

THEATER."

>> RIGHT.

RIGHT.

>> AND IN READING THE LETTER AND

LOOKING AT SOME PEOPLE REPORTING

ON IT, I SAW ONE INDICATION THAT

SAYS THAT THIS LETTER IS MORE

THAN JUST A CRITICISM, IT WAS

DESCRIBED AS SOMETHING OF A

SCALDING INDICTMENT.

WHITE AMERICAN THEATER.

IS THAT A FAIR CHARACTERIZATION?

AND WHAT IS THIS LETTER ALL

ABOUT?

>> I CAN TELL YOU WHAT I FELT

WHEN I READ IT.

IT WAS READ TO ME, I SIGNED THE

LETTER.

I'M ONE OF THE PEOPLE YOU CAN

SEE ON THE FIRST THREE PAGES OF

SIGNATURES, SEVERAL OF US.

I CAN TELL YOU WHEN I READ IT,

IT FELT LIKE LASHES OPENED UP.

I HEARD WORDS THAT MADE ME LIKE

REMEMBER, OH, YES, THAT HAPPENED

TO ME.

OH, YES, WE DO HAVE TO BE SILENT

IN THESE SPACES.

OH, YES, EVEN MY PARENTS TAUGHT

ME HOW TO MOVE AROUND WHITE

SUPREMACY TO EVEN BE WHERE I AM

NOW.

AND EVEN AS A BROADWAY ARTIST, I

THOUGHT THAT WAS THE TOP.

BUT STILL AT THE TOP, WE HAVE TO

MOVE AROUND SEVERAL, SEVERAL

GATES OF WHITE SUPREMACY AND

THAT'S IN CASTING, THAT'S IN THE

REHEARSAL ROOMS, THAT'S IN OUR

WHOLE MAKEUP.

SO I THINK WHAT THAT LETTER DOES

IS IT CHALLENGES BROADWAY, WHICH

IS A WHITE INDIANAPOLISTUTION.

IT IS CALLED THE GREAT WHITE

WAY, NOT JUST FOR JOKES, BUT

THOSE PEOPLE WHO ARE AT THE TOP

WHO ARE THE HOUSE OWNERS, WHO

ARE THE MAIN PRODUCERS, WHO ARE

IN OUR UNION HEADS, THEY'RE ALL

WHITE.

SO WE -- WE DEMAND THEM TO SEE

THE TRUTH AND ALSO MAKE ROOM FOR

US AT THE TOP.

AND I THINK WE WILL SEE CHANGE

WHEN THE MOST VULNERABLE PEOPLE

TO RACISM ARE PART OF THOSE

CONVERSATIONS.

AND UNTIL THEN, WE'RE GOING TO

SEE THE CYCLE OF OPPRESSION.

>> ONCE AGAIN, WE'RE TALKING

WITH BRIT SMITH, BROADWAY ACTOR

AND ALSO THE PRESIDENT OF THE

BROADWAY ADVOCACY COALITION

HERE.

LET ME ASK YOU ABOUT THAT.

I WOULD SUSPECT, AND I DON'T

HAVE ANY DATA TO BACK THIS UP,

BUT I WOULD SUSPECT IF YOU ASKED

A CASUAL BROADWAY OBSERVER ABOUT

BROADWAY, AND HOW IT HAS

PROGRESSED IN TERMS OF EMBRACING

AND INTEGRATING ACTORS AND

PROFESSIONALS OF COLOR, I WOULD

SUSPECT THAT THE ANSWER MIGHT BE

OH, I THINK BROADWAY IS IN THE

FOREFRONT, I THINK THEY'RE DOING

WELL.

I SEE PEOPLE OF COLOR UP ON THE

STAGE.

WOULD YOU AGREE WITH ME, FIRST

OF ALL, THAT'S PROBABLY THE

RESPONSE YOU WOULD GET FROM SOME

CASUAL OBSERVERS?

>> FROM SOME CASUAL OBSERVERS,

YEAH, SURE.

>> AND IS THAT BY ITSELF A

STRONGER EVIDENCE OF WHAT THE

DEPTH OF THE PROBLEM IS?

>> YEAH, BECAUSE THE FOLKS WHO

ARE WATCHING IN CASUALLY ARE NOT

PARTICIPATING IN IT.

I THINK IT'S BLACK PEOPLE WHO

ARE PARTICIPATING IN IT THAT

DON'T HAVE A MORE GROUNDED

UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT'S MISSED.

BECAUSE BROADWAY ISN'T JUST A

STAGE.

BROADWAY IS THE AUDITION ROOM.

BROADWAY IS WAY MORE THAN JUST

WHAT YOU SEE ON STAGE.

AND I THINK IF FOLKS START TO

TAKE TIME TO REALLY LOOK INTO

ALL OF THE ROOMS THAT CREATE

BROADWAY, YOU CAN SEE THERE'S

NOT DIVERSITY THERE AT ALL.

>> IN THIS LETTER, IT'S CRITICAL

OF THOSE WHO PROGRAM, THOSE WHO

CREATE THE PROGRAMMING, CRITICAL

OF THE LABOR UNIONS AND HOW THEY

HAVE FAILED TO EMBRACE PEOPLE OF

COLOR, CRITICAL OF THE MEDIA,

TALKING ABOUT THE MEDIA, I THINK

THE QUOTE WAS A RACIST CRITICAL

MEDIA.

AND I WANT TO ASK SPECIFICS TO

HELP US UNDERSTAND THIS.

ONE OF THE THINGS, A QUOTE THAT

I SAW WHEN LOOKING UP SOME OF

YOUR INFORMATION, THE QUOTE WAS,

OUR NATION'S HISTORY OF RACISM

HAS TRICKLED INTO OUR INDUSTRY

IN WAYS THAT -- LIVE WITH AN

ACTOR.

>> RIGHT.

I WAS RECENTLY IN A SHOW CALLED

"BE MORE CHILL."

IT WAS WONDERFUL, HUGE THING, SO

EXCITING.

>> IT WAS A GREAT PRODUCTION.

>> YOU SAW IT?

FABULOUS, THEN.

THAT WAS THE FIRST TIME I WAS IN

A DRESSING ROOM OFF-BROADWAY

WITH -- I WAS THE ONLY BLACK MAN

IN THE ROOM.

THERE WERE MANY PEOPLE WHO WERE

WHITE, ASIAN AND THEY HAD A

DIFFERENT UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT

THEY DESERVED TO BE PAID.

I STARTED TO LISTEN TO THEM

ABOUT WHAT THEY DESERVED, AND

THEY DID DESERVE THAT.

AND I WENT HOME AND I THOUGHT

WHY DON'T I KNOW I DESERVE TO

GET PAID THAT MUCH MONEY A WEEK?

I'M THE SAVE LEVEL OF PRINCIPLE.

I'M ALSO A LEAD HERE.

WHAT HAVE I BEEN TAUGHT AT HOME

AND IN SCHOOL AND IN AN INDUSTRY

THAT TELLS ME I DON'T DESERVE TO

GET PAID AS MUCH?

SO I CALLED MY AGENTS AND I TOLD

THEM HEY, SO AND SO IS GETTING

PAID THIS AND THEY DIDN'T KNOW I

WAS LISTENING, I AM THE SAME

LEVEL OF ROLE THERE.

I WANT TO GET PAID THAT AS WELL.

MY AGENTS AT THE TIME, WHO ARE

NOT MY AGENTS NOW, WERE FABULOUS

BUT THEY'RE LIKE HEY, THAT'S A

LOT OF MONEY.

ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO ASK FOR

THAT?

ABSOLUTELY.

I MADE MYSELF AND MY AGENTS

ADVOCATE FOR EQUALITY.

I HAVE NEVER BEEN PAID MORE AND

I WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN PAID THAT

IF I DIDN'T LISTEN IN TO THE

THOUGHTS OF WHITE PRIVILEGE.

I LOVE MY CONFIDENCE BUT THERE'S

SOMETHING IN WHITENESS THAT

ALLOWS YOU TO KNOW WHAT YOU

DESERVE.

I HAD TO REMEMBER WHAT I DESERVE

BECAUSE THERE ARE SO MANY THINGS

THAT TAUGHT ME WHAT I DON'T

DESERVE.

THAT'S JUST ONE EXAMPLE I CAN

PERSONALLY SHARE, YOU HAVE TO

REMIND YOURSELF YOU'RE VALUABLE

SEVERAL TIMES.

>> REGARDLESS OF WHAT COLOR YOUR

SKIN MIGHT BE.

>> RIGHT.

>> LET ME ASK YOU ABOUT WHAT THE

COALITION IS DOING, THERE ARE A

SERIES OF FORUMS YOU'RE DOING.

GIVE ME A QUICK SENSE OF SOME OF

WHAT THEY'RE ABOUT, WHAT YOU'RE

HOPING TO GET FROM THESE FORUMS.

>> YES, SO TODAY MARKS OUR FIRST

DAY OF THE THREE-DAY FORUM.

DAY ONE IS ABOUT GATHERING THE

BLACK INDUSTRY MEMBERS

EXCLUSIVELY.

THERE'S NEVER BEEN A SPACE THAT

I CAN THINK OF WHERE WE'VE BEEN

ABLE TO GRIEVE AND MOURN WHAT'S

HAPPENING ON THE OUTSIDE AND ON

THE INSIDE OF OUR STREET

TOGETHER.

WE WANT TO HAVE PEOPLE COME IN

AND TELL US HOW TO DEAL WITH THE

ANXIETY, PAIN THAT IS GOING ON.

BASIC HEALING JUST FOR US.

I THINK PEOPLE MAY THINK

THAT'S -- THAT'S NOT INCLUSIVE.

THAT'S NOT FAIR.

I'M WHITE AND I SHOULD BE IN

THAT SPACE.

NO, NO, NO, YOU'RE WHITE, YOU

SIT BACK AND LISTEN ON DAY TWO

AND HEAR FROM THE EXPERIENCES OF

PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN GOING

THROUGH HISTORIES AND

GENERATIONS OF RACISM IN OUR

INDUSTRY.

SO DAY ONE IS ABOUT US AND HOW

WE HEAL TOGETHER.

DAY TWO IS ABOUT CHALLENGING OUR

WHITE ALLIES, FRIENDS,

COLLEAGUES, INSTITUTIONS, TO

TAKE A BACK SEAT AND LISTEN TO

VARIOUS DIFFERENT STORIES.

IT'S ALL CURATED.

IT'S NOT TO ANTAGONIZE AND POINT

SHAME AND CALL OUT NAMES.

IT'S A POINT TO LET PEOPLE KNOW

THIS IS HOW I'VE HAD TO MOVE

AROUND WHITE SUPREMACY TO EXIST

IN THE SPACE THAT I AM.

AND THEN THERE ARE TWO PEOPLE I

DON'T WANT TO NAME RIGHT NOW WHO

ARE BIG LEADERS IN OUR INDUSTRY,

MAJOR NAMES.

THEY HAVE TONYS.

THEY ARE BIG STARS.

SO EVEN IF -- SO IT'S A

CHALLENGE TO THE IDEA THERE'S NO

EXCEPTION TO THE RULE.

THERE'S NO EXCEPTION TO THE

RULE.

AND I THINK THAT THIS -- THIS

FORUM SHOULD BE DONE PROBABLY IN

MANY INSTITUTIONS.

I BET DOCTORS AT THE TOP OF

THEIR GAME FEEL THE SAME WAY

THAT OUR TOP OF THE GAME

INDIVIDUALS FEEL.

AND DAY THREE IS ABOUT

IDENTIFYING WHAT IT WOULD LOOK

LIKE IF EVERYBODY WAS HELD

ACCOUNTABLE, WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE

TO BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE AND WHAT

WE DREAM OF.

THERE ARE 5,000 PEOPLE PART OF

DAY TWO AND THREE.

SO IT'S AN AMAZING OPPORTUNITY

FOR THE TRUTH TO BE TOLD TO THE

PEOPLE WHO NEED TO MAKE ROOM FOR

US.

IT'S AMAZING.

I'M EXCITED.

AND THIS ALL BEGAN IN TEN DAYS,

THIS IDEA IS TEN DAYS OLD.

>> AS I SAID, THE ORGANIZATION

IS NOT NEW TO THIS CONVERSATION.

AND FOR ANYBODY OUT THERE WHO

WANTS TO HELP, THEY CAN GO TO

BROADWAY ADVOCACY COALITION.ORG.

>> RIGHT.

>> OUR HOPE IS, AND I WOULD LIKE

TO TALK TO YOU DOWN THE ROAD,

HISTORY TAUGHT US SADLY IT TAKES

TRAGEDY, CRISIS, EVEN MARTYRDOM

FOR US TO MAKE SIGNIFICANT

CHANGE IN OUR CULTURES, AND THAT

WE'RE MOVING FORWARD IN THAT

DIRECTION.

I APPLAUD, LITERALLY AND

FIGURATIVELY, WHAT YOU AND THE

ORGANIZATION IS DOING.

I HOPE WE CAN TALK AGAIN DOWN

THE ROAD AND THERE WILL BE SOME

PROGRESS MADE.

BRITON SMITH, THANK YOU ONCE

AGAIN FOR SPENDING TIME WITH US.

GOOD LUCK WITH EVERYTHING YOU'RE

DOING.

YOU BE WELL.

>> YOU TOO, MAN.

THANK YOU, JACK.

>> TAKE CARE.

>> BYE.

>> "METROFOCUS" IS MADE POSSIBLE

BY

SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III,

SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA

PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT

ANTI-SEMITISM.

BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ,

BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG,

JANET PRINDLE SEIDLER,

JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD,

CHERYL AND PHILIP MILSTEIN

FAMILY,

JUDY AND JOSH WESTON,

DR. ROBERT C. AND TINA SOHN

FOUNDATION.