By Tom Horan
The Kennedy Dancers, a beloved arts institution in Jersey City for more than 45 years, have now been forced to spend more than $10,000 defending their nonprofit status due to an overly aggressive Jersey tax collector. City who saw the organization as not an asset to Jersey City. This same tax collector once tried to tax local places of worship, the Jersey City Ukrainian Center and Jersey City-based non-profit radio station WFMU, until he met strong resistance. listeners.
The Kennedy Dancers are an IRS 501(c)3 certified nonprofit organization, a unique federal authorization!
Since 1976, the Kennedy Dancers have offered:
- A professional dance company performing original choreography, many inspired by real Hudson County stories. During these decades, countless free performances were offered to the public, including 10 consecutive summers on the J. Owen Grundy Pier to thousands.
- A dance training program for inner-city youth that offered free dance training to hundreds of young students through grants and fundraising. Many students have gone on to college programs as well as professional careers and have benefited from free dance training in a wide range of styles.
- Free senior dance, exercise and fitness classes six days a week. Not only do the seniors get in shape, but they also perform on stage at the dance recitals and special performances at Loew’s Jersey.
In 1996, the Kennedy Dancers purchased a former bar (closed by the Drug Enforcement Agency) at Beacon and Central Avenues, creating the Kennedy Dancers Repertory Center in its place. Two dance studios and an office have replaced a large bar and pool table.
Upstairs is home to DANCE VISTA Productions, which produces The Kennedy Dancers television productions, performances and recitals. Nobody lives there.
In 2000, the Kennedy Dancers purchased 126 Beacon next door to house a music room, wardrobe and small dance studio. Upstairs lives a caretaker of both buildings who trades services in exchange for living space.
In addition to all of the subsidized free classes, the Kennedy Dancers also offer low-cost dance and fitness for children and families.
All in all, living in the real world, the Kennedy Dancers have to pay for staff, utilities, endless repairs and maintenance from handymen, building and liability insurance, unemployment insurance, ASCAP, facility rental for shows and more.
The tax collector doesn’t think there should be tuition fees or admission fees to professional dance concerts (which pay professional dancers to perform their art). He thinks volunteers should always help out and that the Kennedy Dancers shouldn’t operate as a “business.”
Now, after the tax collector systematically postpones meetings, negotiations and arbitration, the Kennedy Dancers must continue to pay lawyers to represent this nonprofit institution.
How ironic that the untaxed tax collector’s office that created this dilemma (along with free taxpayer-funded legal counsel) is forcing a non-profit organization to engage in costly representation to defend what the federal government has already declared – that the Kennedy Dancers are a non-taxable entity.
Churches hold bingo nights and parties to help pay the bills.
Radio stations organize fundraisers.
Fraternal organizations have fundraisers and dances.
The Kennedy Dancers raise much-needed funds through dance classes and theme nights while offering free classes and concerts.
As we look around for properties getting a billion-dollar tax cut, this tax collector grabs the low-hanging fruit of a creative arts institution founded and still chaired by Diane Dragone. The Kennedy Dancers are looking forward to celebrating 50 years as a cultural institution with a performance at the newly renovated Loew’s Jersey Theater.
Although the mayor has said he doesn’t agree with the Jersey City tax collector’s intentions, he says he has no influence over him.
Please do not allow a heartless tax collector who does not view our arts institution as an asset to the community to continue his assault on art in Jersey City.
We need you to speak up! Please send letters of support to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tom Horan is program director of JCETV and the BEST program, as well as a board member of the Kennedy Dancers and husband of Kennedy Dancers founder Diane Dragone.
Send letters to the editor and guest columns of the Jersey Journal to email@example.com.