Free concerts will return to Stuy Cove after all

June6 Sean Mahony band

Event organizer Jo-Ann Polise cited endless paperwork as enemy number one to the concert series. (Pictured) A concert from a previous year at Stuyvesant Cove Park with Sean Mahony and the Swing Orchestra (Photo by Jo-Ann Polise)

By Sabina Mollot

Last month, Jo-Ann Polise, the main organizer of the annual summer concert series put on by the Stuyvesant Cove Park Association, announced via this newspaper that after several years the music had come to an end. The reason, she explained at the time, was that despite the grants awarded to the group by Council Member Keith Powers, the city’s process for actually getting the funds had become so onerous, it was too much for an all-volunteer outfit to bear.

However, Polise has since changed her tune, saying the concerts will return — at least this year. After that it may not be possible to hold waterfront concerts for the next couple of years due to the planned East Side Coastal Resiliency Project.

The reason for the park association’s change of heart was twofold. First, since the SCPA had made the announcement, Polise found that she couldn’t go anywhere — even grocery shopping — without someone telling her how much the free, riverside gigs would be missed.

“We got a lot of responses; people were saying, ‘we’re so sorry,’” Polise said. “There was a lot of un happiness in the community.”

Secondly, New York City Ferry, operated by Hornblower, unexpectedly stepped in as a sponsor. While Polise declined to disclose the amount being donated, she said it’s expected to cover half the cost of the series, which this year should start in July.

She added that after the outpouring of support from the community following the cancellation announcement made on May 2, “We had a long discussion.”

The “we” would be the board members of the SCPA, who did some calculations to see if the nonprofit organization could handle any costs that couldn’t be recouped without endless paperwork. Or at all. One condition of the discretionary funding was that no more than 30 percent of the amount could be paid to outside vendors, but since the SCPA is a volunteer organization, all of the services needed for the concerts were provided by outside vendors.

Additionally, even the musicians, Polise noted, couldn’t receive payment without first signing forms in front of a notary. “If you work a full-time job it’s too much,” she said.

After figuring the SCPA could cover gaps in projected costs if they had to, the board members voted unanimously to bring the series back to the park. Not long after this, the association was contacted by Hornblower, with the offer of some funds.

“Their help will go a long way,” said Polise. “We’ll be able to put together a wonderful lineup.”

She also wanted to stress that her ire wasn’t with Powers or his predecessor in the City Council, Dan Garodnick, as both have consistently allocated money for summer programming.

“Their support has been generous and unwavering,” she said. “It’s just unfortunate that governmental regulations inflicted on not-for-profits on every level makes it difficult to take full advantage of that support.”

The performers for the 2019 series haven’t all yet been confirmed, but Polise said concert goers can expect swing, jazz and country acts.

“We hope that people will come to the park, enjoy the music and support our efforts any way they can,” she said.

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