While Wall Street Journal editorial board member and perennial bike crank Dorothy Rabinowitz notoriously declared that Citi Bikes had “begrimed” New York City’s streets, a look at recently built bike lanes and pedestrian plazas shows the opposite. Unlike the monolithic city planning status quo of Dorothy’s day, which literally paved over communities in favor of speedy car travel (with questionable success), the City’s contemporary bike boom and progressive planning policies are helping create new ones. The human-scale of bike and pedestrian infrastructure, and the comparatively leisurely pace of walking and biking, have created blank canvases and receptive audiences for public art, breathing life into spaces once choked by exhaust.
Voice Tunnel | Image by Flickr user Squirrel83
New York City’s Department of Transportation (DOT) is leading this public space renaissance with their Urban Art Program. With varying degrees of permanence, and projects ranging in scale from small to seriously ambitious, the program seeks to help transform New York’s landscape from “ordinary to extraordinary.” The DOT’s Summer Streets events — an annual closure of nearly 7 miles of city streets for “people to play, walk, bike and breathe,” — recently did just that with the unveiling of Mexican-Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s Voice Tunnel. The exhibit took over the 1400 ft. Park Avenue Tunnel, the artist installing an array of lights and speakers, and creating an otherworldly experience in the heart of Midtown Manhattan for thousands of event goers.
Join the DOT at 2:30 this afternoon at the pedestrian plaza at 9th Avenue and 36th St to celebrate the unveiling of the Urban Art Program's latest work — Taiwanese-born artist Tang-Wei Hsu’s Monkey Magic sculpture. In the meantime, check out some choice barrier beautifcation pics below, documenting part of the DOT’s continued “degriming” of New York City’s streets.
Featured Image: Perpetual Nature" along the Flushing Bay Promenade (Queens) | Image: NYC DOT (flickr)
"Food in Transit," Baychester Avenue and Bartow Avenue, Bronx | Image: NYC DOT (flickr)
Anchovies lining a pedestrian path on the east side of Manhattan | Image: NYC DOT (flickr)
Concept art from "Longing for Spring" along the Hudson River Greenway (Tribeca) | Image: NYC DOT (flickr)
Artists at work on "Teeth and Grooves" along Flushing Ave. bike path (Brooklyn) | Image: NYC DOT