Volume 22, Number 19 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | September 18 - 24, 2009

Rendering of the manhole-inspired artwork slated to be at the end of W. Thames St.

B.P.C. art is for the gutter, official says

Much to the chagrin of one of its board members, the Battery Park City Authority voted last week to spend over $380,000 on a piece of artwork that looks like a giant manhole cover.

“It’s a tough economy to spend money on this bull[crap],” said David Cornstein, authority board member.

The circle of concrete and steel will be set into the asphalt of the W. Thames St. cul-de-sac. Cobblestones used to mark the center of the street’s end, but they deteriorated after garbage trucks and moving vans repeatedly drove over them.

The area is now paved in asphalt, but the city’s Public Design Commissioned required the authority to replace the cobblestones with another artistic feature. The authority opted for a design by Audrey Matlock that is inspired by manhole covers and features concentric circles embedded with colored lights.

Cornstein and other board members were surprised by the project’s hefty price tag. Robert Mueller, the only board member who lives in Battery Park City, said it was ironic to spend so much money on an art feature for one of the ugliest places in the neighborhood. Security vehicles use the street’s end as a parking lot, and several buildings have their garbage picked up there. Mueller conceded that the artwork would improve the street.

James Gill, chairperson of the board, and Jim Cavanaugh, president of the authority, both defended the expenditure.

“We are in tough times,” Gill said, “but we would prefer to maintain our artistic standards to the extent we can. I think we can well afford this.”

Most of the board members agreed, voting in favor of the artwork, but Cornstein stayed silent, leaning back in his chair and rolling his eyes.

— Julie Shapiro

 





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