The community was shocked to see their 191st Street #1 subway station at Broadway, devoid of the colorful murals commissioned by Department of Transportation in 2015 as part of a Beautification Project. This past weekend, a DOT operation “fully clean and sanitize’ the approximately 900-foot-long tunnel early on Saturday morning, January 21, 2023.
Taking a look-back to 2015, Community Board 12 and the DOT wanted to transform the dark and dirty pedestrian walk. A project-specific committee of outside arts professionals selected local Washington Heights artist Andrea von Bujdoss (Queen Andrea); Bronx born and raised artist Fernando Carlo, Jr. (COPE 2) who currently resides in Hopewell Junction, NY; Queens-based artist Nick Kuszyk; Brooklyn-based artist Nelson Rivas Cekis; and Maryland-based artist team Jessie Unterhalterand Katey Truhn.
The 2015 installation of the five murals coincided with a previously scheduled MTA weekend tunnel closure at the 191st Street 1 train station. Artists were granted access to the tunnel over the course of a one-week period, with a partial closure for prep work occurring a few days in advance of painting. The tunnel remained accessible to the public during the partial closure.
In a statement, DOT spokesperson Vincent Barone said ….
“DOT recently cleaned the 191st Street tunnel and removed graffiti. We value the importance of public art and this cleaning is the first step toward creating a new art project for the tunnel. We look forward to working closely with the community and local elected officials on a project that celebrates the culture and diversity that makes New York so special.” DOT spokesperson Vincent Barone said in a statement.
“Cleaned’ is an understatement. Here are Flickr images of some of what was lost.
Why the DOT? Although the tunnel connects to the MTA Subway System, it is mapped as a street and is thus owned and maintained by NYCDOT.
Some have compared this to what happened at 5Pointz, which was demolished in 2014. In 2018, the developer who bought the property in the early 1970s, and ultimately demolished the building, was ordered by a judge to pay the maximum amount of statutory damages, $150,000 each for 45 works, for a total of $6.7 million in damages to 21 artists.
We hope to look forward to a call for mural artists by NYCDOT’s Art Program soon.
Below, a statement from NOMAA & Carmen De La Rosa.
Streetart has captivated and attracted pedestrians all throughout New York. Builders have also enjoyed the benefit of commissioning streetart, creating attractive murals in and around their projects. Some of our favorite projects include The Mural Project around 2WTC and 3WTC construction lots. This project was born from, and using many of the same artists as, an indoor project at 4 WTC (generously supported by Silverstein Properties). On the other end of Manhattan, Crack is Wack, the Audubon Mural Project in Hamilton Heights, The famous Graffiti Wall of Fame, Uptown Grand Central murals in and around East Harlem’s 125th Street with The Uptown Grandscale and the #100GatesProject. And the walls that were here before all of them, the Guerrilla Wall in El Barrio, The Bowery Art Wall and First Street Green among many others ~ like Katie Mertz Brooklyn Glyphs, an enormously, overwhelmingly, gorgeous (temporary) project at 80 Flatbush in 2017.