Like other Glen Covians, Delia DeRiggi-Whitton has always enjoyed the free outdoor concerts, fondly known as Downtown Sounds. The legislator was as upset as those she serves by the city’s decision that it would no longer be able to support the concert series due to budget restraints. The city’s annual contribution was $25,000. Without the funding the fate of the series was in jeopardy.
Undeterred, DeRiggi-Whitton worked tirelessly to obtain funding from the Legislature. On March 25 she was successful, when legislators unanimously voted in favor of providing a $25,000 grant from the county’s Hotel-Motel Occupancy Tax fund for the concert series. The grant is drawn from funds generated through an occupancy tax of 3 percent on hotels and motel rooms, as well as bed and breakfasts, inns, cabins, cottages, campgrounds, tourist homes and convention centers within Nassau County. The tax is targeted for grants to support programs and activities relevant to the enhancement of tourism in the county.
“This concert series has brought pleasure to residents and served as a potent economic development tool that attracts scores of visitors to Glen Cove,” DeRiggi-Whitton wrote in a November 2018 letter advocating for the grant. “Concertgoers support locally owned small businesses and generate valuable sales tax dollars for the City of Glen Cove and Nassau County.”
Downtown Sounds, originally called Jazz in the Square, was an initiative by former Mayor Ralph Suozzi that began in 1997. It has always been operated by the Glen Cove Downtown Business Improvement District. Back then there were four concerts in July and it was very popular. So much so that in 2010 the city decided to increase the series to nine concerts that would extend into August. By then it had been renamed, Downtown Sounds. The city entered into a partnership in 2010 with the BID offering to contribute $25,000, assisting in the total cost for the concerts, which is $75,000. The BID has continued to contribute its $25,000 and the remaining funds are acquired each year from private sponsorships.
Word traveled among musicians. Patricia Holman, the concert series’ executive director, said she was surprised by how many artists request to play in the concert series, saying she has had over 50 that were interested.
“Downtown Sounds has been huge for us,” she said. “Last year we had crowds. And it was packed as far as you could see.”
People come from all over to enjoy the concerts, she added, from both Long Island and Manhattan. “When the city decided to take away the $25,000 I spoke to the Downtown Committee and they decided that they didn’t want to shorten the concert series and wanted to keep it professional.”
Holman said she was nervous that the concert series would come to an end. She was relieved, she said, when DeRiggi-Whitton stepped in.
“I am very happy,” DeRiggi-Whitton said. “People really enjoy the Downtown Sounds. It’s such a nice part of the summer.”
Mayor Tim Tenke, who reached out to the Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello a week before the vote and on the day of the vote in the Legislator said he is relieved. “I indicated to Legislator Nicolello how important the Downtown Sounds was for not only Glen Cove but also for the surrounding communities who come each summer,” Tenke said. “I think it was Delia’s persistence and the success of the concert series that helped to secure the funds for us.”
The city will continue to provide the services of its department of public works, and auxiliary and city police departments, which Holman said is needed to continue the series.