2017-06-21 / Features

Queens College Holds June Business Breakfast Forum

By Thomas Cogan
The Queens College Business Forum held its fourth and last breakfast of the academic year last week, welcoming Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment Julie Menin, who heads an office that has grown from its somewhat experimental beginnings about a half-century ago to the point where it brings in nearly $9 billion in revenue each year and employs 130,000, most of them probably city residents.  Commissioner Menin had a lot of information to convey to her audience, so in the time she had it came thick and fast.  The office has surprising range, covering not only film and television production but also the music and book publishing industries.  And since it was June at the college there were academic awards, which went to six graduating students.

Julie Menin’s current job is her second major one in city government, the first being commissioner of consumer affairs.  She has been commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment—MOME—since 2012, which means she has been its commissioner through two mayoralties.  MOME brings $9 billion to the city annually, she said, mainly through movie and television productions and musical events.  At the moment, for instance, 56 scripted television shows are in production in the city, and several films have at least a part of their scenes shot in Manhattan or the other boroughs.  But major films with famous stars are augmented by independent ones, which are partially publicized by the round Made in NYC logo in still advertisements in subway cars and buses, and even on bus shelters.

There are courses in filmmaking too, but in a special way, appealing to women and the disabled.  (At question time, one woman said her autistic grandson is intensely interested in cinema and is glad to hear there’s a city source of training that can help him and persons like him.)  Training can include screenwriting contests, the winners of which have pilot films made and shown on Channel 25, which also runs the program, Her Big Idea, which has been known to exceed MSNBC in the ratings from time to time, Menin said. There’s also Sound Thinking for Girls, where high school girls get training in operating a sound studio.  A visual/augmented reality studio is under construction.  Even some aspects of the New York theater world are within the office’s purview:  stagecraft training for backstage work; the Broadway in the Boroughs program; and Access Broadway for NYCHA residents.

 Menin said she used to hear that the New York music scene had pretty much left town, mainly for Los Angeles.  In June, which is Music Month in New York, she was proud to declare that the city’s musical decline is overstated, to put it politely.  Musical growth in New York is at a better rate than in Los Angeles, she said; and music start-ups are competitive with Silicon Valley and San Francisco.  When it comes to live music, New York simply kills, running well ahead of L.A., San Francisco and Chicago.  She said that the day before, she had been in the Bronx to celebrate Hip-Hop Day, in the place where it was born.  The Grammy Awards began in New York too, and were a staple for years before roaming.  She said they will be held here once again in 2018.  Meanwhile the city works heavily with Spotify, the music download and streaming service, Menin said in reply to a question about media.  She said she has to keep pace with radical change, as exhibited by Spotify, a company that confines media to mobile phone screens, but she’s already had some experience, seeing her three teenaged sons adapting to it as if it were part of their growth.

For books, her office promoted the 1 Book, 1 NYC program, which conducted a poll to choose which book should be the one book all New York should read.  There were three nominees, and the winner was Americanah, a novel by the Nigerian-American writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  Menin said that sales of the book rose 400 percent in the city’s eight remaining Barnes & Noble stores, which argues that even bookstores might make a comeback.

Another media inquiry came from a woman, Aldith McConney, who works at Baruch Educational Services and is trying to develop a non-profit workshop to provide college preparation for youth who are acutely in need of it.  Could the mayor’s media office be of help getting her, as she said, “on the map?”  Menin said it was possible and that McConney should get in touch with it.

She closed with an exhortation about New York’s “iconic location.”  No other city can compete with it for media coverage, she said.  Bruce Bendell, who owns Major World, the Northern Boulevard automobile dealer, arose and told her that he’d heard a Los Angeles media company was opening a New York office.  L.A.’s no fool!

There were six academic awards, beginning with the Queens Chamber of Commerce Hank Auffarth Awards, which went to Tiffany Azim and Kristen Cournane.

The chamber’s other prize, the Herbert and June Bienstock Award, went to Wendylin Salas.  The Investors Bank Scholarships were awarded to Faisal Nadeem and Steven Cepeda.  Finally, the Queens College Business Forum Scholarship was won by Sara Fuchs.

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