Public Policy: The Right To Dance
When do you have the right to dance?

For more than a century now, the City of New York has had a variety of laws that regulate how and when people can dance. Many of these laws are a direct result of the pressures applied by the people of new York City on its local government.

Although dancing may seems like a trivial issue, it speaks to the power of people to effect change in their daily lives, governmental process, the effectiveness of government's authority, and minority rights. Without people's direct participation in government, many of the laws that govern New York's dance clubs would not exist.

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Step One

Answer the following questions using the resources provided below:

  1. Why has the City tried to regulate 'dancing'? Explain how people's values has effected these policies.

  2. What rights do people have in protecting themselves from the noise and other things they don't like about clubs?

  3. How do community residents use the city government to curtail club ownership and operation?

  4. Describe the difficulties modern day club owners face in operating a club?

Step Two

Using the references below construct the following scenario in an essay:

Pretend you are the City Councilperson of a neighborhood that is witnessing an influx of new residents. These new residents are mostly young and professional and include many artists. They have revitalized your economically depressed community by opening a slew of new shops, cafes, galleries, restaurants and bars.

Now these new residents want to open a large dance club within the vicinity of the homes of long-time residents. The home owners have organized to block the opening of the club which is now under construction and whose state liquor license application is under review.

As the top city representative in the area, community residents are looking to you to help them make a decision. Knowing what you know about clubs' effects on neighborhoods from the articles you have read in this assignment, describe in a essay the decision you will make.

How will you make your decision?

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Process (Things to think about while doing this assignment)
  • Which city government agencies should respond to a particular public policy issue?

  • Does their involvement seem justified?

  • How well are they carrying out their responsibilities?

  • How would you improve the allocation of responsibilities?

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History of New York City's Cabaret Laws

Neighbors and Nightclubs from

Take Back The Nightlife Article from explores the polices of the Giuliani administration

Manhattan Borough President's nightlife task force report (will open as a .pdf file) This file is also available in your Group Shared Folder.

New York City's Cabaret Laws

Village Voice Article: The Safety Dance


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 Evaluation (How you will be graded)

Your answers to the questions in Step One should demonstrate that you used the resources provided.

The answers should be written in your own words.

Your essay in Step Two should demonstrate the following;

  • An understanding of the history and current issues surrounding New York City's cabaret laws.
  • The ability to refer to both the references provided in this assignment and previous activities in class (namely our viewing of the film Times of Harvey Milk and Councilman David Yassky's visit to our class).


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State Standard 5.2, 5.3, and 5.4, National Standards II, III, and V

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  Updated: 01/08/04  
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