Skip to main content

Featured Post

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park infographics: what's built/coming/missing, who's responsible, + project overview/FAQ/timeline (pinned post)

"Block Party": Peter Krashes' paintings express community solidarity and neighborhood resistance/frustration

I'll be part of a panel Wednesday, Learning from Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, associated with the exhibition. The exhibition is at CUNY's James Gallery, 365 Fifth Avenue, ground floor, through Oct. 28, open 12-7pm Tuesday-Thursday and 12-6pm Friday and Saturday.

Outside the gallery
During last Wednesday's program, Unintentional Community, from Shared Experience to Action, associated with painter Peter Krashes' project-related exhibition Block Party, one visitor asked Krashes about the relationship between work and his activism, as a leader of the Dean Street Block Association (DSBA).

(Krashes has been so involved in block issues that one neighbor said, "I have had Peter mistaken for my husband.")

It relates, Krashes said, to what others had just been discussing regarding their relationship with Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park: "There’s a component of frustration here… there’s mediation in all of this work.. it’s remote." (Also see coverage of a resident's challenge in getting double-paned windows and the developer's legal requirement.)

While his work is based on photos, it indicates the  "separation and marginalization" people feel as "the state is facilitating the developer’s interests," he said.

Not quite documentary

Indeed, his work is not quite documentary, since that's what photos are for, but it's by no means abstracted and distant. There's a sense of struggle, such as in the painting below right, juxtaposing empty microphones with the grandeur of Borough Hall.

"My work as an activist and my work as an artist extend from the same set of values," Krashes says in the program. "All of my works are derived from meetings I attend or events and initiatives I help organize. There is no room in political or governmental processes for many of the activities we involve ourselves in, but perhaps none more so than painting a nuanced image in the studio. As a result, the paintings are the last step in a process I have been engaged with from beginning to end. The imperatives I feel outside the studio are explicit so the outcome in the studio is particular and linked directly to the real world."

Painting community and resistance

The text at bottom from the program to Krashes' exhibition, elaborates on that theme, but also describes the solidarity of community and the puckishness of resistance.

Peter Krashes: "Seed Bomb Factory"
In contrast with the developer's highly publicized mural-painting block party, aimed to enliven an obtrusive green fence with determinedly abstract images, the DSBA revived a neighborhood tradition, holding an annual block party, including--before the building was razed for the project--a local homeless shelter.

"When the arena developer's vice president tweeted a photo of professional dancers on Dean Street during the MTV VMA's red carpet," Krashes writes, "I tweeted her back a similar one of Dean Street residents dancing the electric slide at a block party in exactly the same spot."

He also describes the deployment of "seed bombs, a guerrilla gardening tactic from the 1970s that can be used to plant flowers in lots that are enclosed by fences," as shown in the painting above left.

At the gallery: a banner calling for Governor David
 Paterson to call a "Time Out" on Atlantic Yards
Activist positioning

Interestingly enough, in the last few years, Krashes and the DSBA have become the most prominent activists toward/critics of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, simply because they are direct neighbors and have to endure noise, traffic jams, illegal parking, and trucks on residential streets.

Though a few were active in Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, which organized lawsuits and other efforts to stop the project, most were not.

Peter Krashes: "Summer Streets"
The DSBA, which helped litigate for a new Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement after the project deadline was extended, withdrew from a 2014 settlement leading to a new 2025 deadline for the project's affordable housing.

The DSBA felt the settlement, negotiated by the mend-it-don't-end-it coalition BrooklynSpeaks, couldn't provide sufficient oversight because the newly established body, the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC), was only advisory. Indeed, the AY CDC has had little impact, though it has added some transparency.

From the program