NEW YORK, March 6, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- "Cultural Institutions as Economic Engines for New York City" was the theme of a forum hosted today by Stroock & Stroock & Lavan and featuring Emily K. Rafferty, President of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Katherine Farley, Chair of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and Kate D. Levin, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. The three prominent women discussed a range of issues exploring the financial impact of cultural institutions on New York City. Robert Abrams, former New York State Attorney General and Chair of Stroock's Government Relations Practice, and Stuart H. Coleman, Stroock's Co-Managing partner, moderated the panel. "The visual and performing arts in New York City contribute significantly to the city's economy and are recognition of New York City's preeminent global cultural brand," said Abrams. " Emily Rafferty, Katherine Farley and Kate Levin, outstanding leaders of our cultural community, offered provocative and thoughtful insights about the impact of culture across all aspects of life." "Culture is New York's signature industry," said Commissioner Levin. " New York City is the largest arts funder in the country, owns 33 cultural institutions, including botanical gardens, theaters and museums, and funds 900 groups per year." Many of those groups are small, with budgets around $250,000. "They are like small businesses in neighborhoods – everything thrives when culture thrives, and the quality of life and humanity are enhanced." Levin cited Brooklyn as a stunning example of the long-term benefits of civic investments in cultural institutions, from the Brooklyn Museum to theaters and programs across the borough. The presence of these institutions has created thousands of jobs and businesses and helped put Brooklyn on the map as a cultural destination. " Brooklyn is an extraordinary dynamo," said Levin. The Metropolitan Museum of Art attracted 6.3 million people in 2012 – 40 percent of them international visitors – and its programs and financial impact are large. Rafferty described the Met as "a place of renewal and reflection that inspires people to leave their daily lives." As poignant examples, she noted that the museums were able to open the day after the devastations of 9/11 and the Sandy storm, and thousands of people waited outside to visit.