Monday, July 20, 2015

The art of distraction: developer plans murals for Dean Street wall; Times article calls wall "ugly," doesn't mention street encroachment

Updated with a comment from Dean Street resident and activist Peter Krashes.

From the New York Times ArtsBeat today, 10 Murals in Brooklyn to Spruce Up Construction Site:
An 820-foot stretch of a Brooklyn street will soon become a canvas for 10 artists, as a way to ease the effects of a multiyear construction project.
In an initiative sponsored by Greenland Forest City Partners, the developer behind Pacific Park Brooklyn – formerly known as Atlantic Yards – Dean Street between Vanderbilt and Carlton Streets in Prospect Heights will feature 10, 10-by-40-foot murals, to be painted on one day, Aug. 15, during a street fair.
“We wanted to do something visual, that gives a little visual reprieve to the neighborhood, that turns this giant ugly wall into something special,” said Mike Perry, the Brooklyn artist who, as the “artist in residence,” is curator of the project.
“It’s really about big, bold graphic kind of statements,” Mr. Perry, 34, added of the work he chose, from the artists Morgan Blair, Eddie Perrote, Josh Cochran, Archie Lee Coates IV, Hisham Akira Bharoocha, Thomas Colligan, Jennifer Maravillas, Naomi Reis and Edward Ubiera. “It’s massive; it’s almost daunting to look at,” he said of the wall, which covers the partial construction of a 22-acre site, and will be up for at least three years.
Of course the artist claims local cred:
“I have a pretty serious relationship with Dean Street,”[Perry] said — he once had a pop-up gallery there. His hope is that, because it is a main thoroughfare with a bike lane, the murals will attract a lot of eyeballs. “You have an audience,” he said.
My comment

Narrowed Dean Street
What this article misses--perhaps because the Times sent an Arts reporter to cover a story about urban issues, and has no journalist paying steady attention to Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park--is that this mural project is a distraction in more ways than one.

Yes, the wall "covers the partial construction of a 22-acre site, and will be up for at least three years." Yes, the wall is "giant ugly" and "massive" and "almost daunting."

But the mural project, aiming to turn the wall into "something special," can only address part of the problem faced by neighbors and those passing by on foot, bicycle, or vehicle.

Tree damage on Dean Street
Because the developers of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park got special permission to build such a large project, the noise from construction is significant. State regulators decided that only a 16-foot fence, not a typical 8-foot one, were necessary to block that noise on Dean Street (mixed residential and commercial) and adjacent Carlton Avenue (wholly residential).

Such a huge fence, however, requires far more bracing and thus sticks out nearly halfway into the street, severely narrowing the passage and the margin for error. (Update: a reader reminds me that it's also because of the large work area behind the fence.)

The result: trees damaged by trucks, traffic jams delaying the passage of fire trucks, and the loss of parking, which means commercial customers must park on the sidewalk (and the business owner faces fines).

A comment from resident Peter Krashes

Dean Street resident and activist Peter Krashes sent me his comment, which went out not under his name (though he has tried to change his Times ID):
I'm a neighbor of the fence, so my perspective is immune to PR. For those who haven't passed by it, it is exceptional in New York City for its scale, its duration relative to the actual construction happening behind it (there is still no construction behind some areas 10 months after the fence was implemented), and especially for the amount of public space it carves out for the use of the developer.

Because the street has been narrowed so much on Dean Street, Carlton Avenue, and Vanderbilt Avenue, fire trucks and other emergency vehicles responding to calls are regularly caught without any recourse in congestion, and public buses are delayed. Street trees are getting damaged and sidewalks are cracking from trucks that pull up on the curb in order to clear the travel lane (why does Greenland Forest City Partners get a pass from NYC regulations that require street trees to be protected within 50 feet of construction?). Finally, local residents and businesses have lost blocks worth of on-street parking making it difficult to conduct operate. It is not just that parking has been lost -- there is no room to pull up in front homes or businesses without blocking the travel lane. My neighbor ended up in the hospital after being shoved by a contractor who insisted on parking on the sidewalk in front of his home.
Decorating the fence will be a welcome respite from the wall of green the fence is now, but it won't address the safety issues and inconvenience the fence creates.
A correction 

In response to a correction I sent, the Times published:
A report in the “Arts, Briefly” column on Monday about a plan to have murals painted on a large wall at the Pacific Park Brooklyn construction site misstated the names of two streets in Prospect Heights that form the boundary of the block on Dean Street where artists will create the murals. They will be painted on a wall between Vanderbilt Avenue and Carlton Avenue, not Vanderbilt Street and Carlton Street.
The larger errors of omission, of course, were not corrected.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:47 PM

    Look ! A mural! Cool!