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Artists ‘attack’ East River Park amphitheater, hoping to block resiliency plan

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Call it speed graffiti for a cause.

In a last-ditch bid to save East River Park from destruction, artists descended on its amphitheater at Corlears Hook late Saturday afternoon in what was dubbed an Art Attack.

Working rapidly, in just a couple of hours they had festooned the structure and the plaza behind it with a riot of graffiti art and murals.

Max, who recently lived on the Lower East Side for two years, said it’s vital to save East River Park. “Hell, yeah,” he said. “This park is a sanctuary. I play music here, I meditate here, I look at the water.” (Photo by The Village Sun)

Sixty percent of the park is set to start being buried under 8 to 9 feet of dirt next month as part of phase one of the East Side Coastal Resiliency plan. The $1.45 billion scheme is meant to raise the park above the floodplain to protect the surrounding community against storm surges and deluges from future Sandys.

Brandon Sines painted one of his signature Frank Ape figures behind the amphitheater. Although he lives Uptown today, he said, “The East Village is my spiritual home.” (Photo by The Village Sun)
(Photo by The Village Sun)
(Photo by The Village Sun)

As for the Art Attack, as first reported by The Village Sun, the idea was initially broached at a strategy meeting of East River Park ACTION in August.

The tactic was inspired by a lawsuit that was filed over the demolition of 5 Pointz, a graffiti-strewn former factory building in Long Island City, in 2014. In that case, the artists argued that, under the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990, they were not given the legally required 90-day notice before the building was razed. Twenty-one artists wound up winning $6.7 million.

Sean Slaney a.k.a. Angry Red worked on a stencil he had spray-painted inspired by Delacroix’s “Liberty Leading the People.” (Photo by The Village Sun)
The Liberté image above with Angry Red’s signature tag below. (Photo by The Village Sun)
Delphine le Goff a.k.a. Spoutnik working on her friend Angry Red’s piece. A French native, she said she decided to stay in New York City partly because of East River Park, which she visits daily. “I clear my head [in the park],” she said. “I have long walks to clear my head. That’s partly why I moved here, to be near the water.” (Photo by The Village Sun)
Angry Red, rolled-up stencil in hand, ready to roll after completing his artwork on the amphitheater. (Photo by The Village Sun)
All hands on (amphitheater) deck. (Photo by The Village Sun)

After taking a break to enjoy pizza donated by Two Boots, the artists painting the amphitheater called it a night around 6:30 p.m. But they planned to return the next afternoon to add onto what they had already created, extending the artwork out more onto the plaza and possibly the esplanade along the river, to make it even more visible.

Thechalkjungle created patterns on the east and north sides of the amphitheater. She hadn’t done any art since the seventh grade, but the pandemic inspired the Lower Manhattan resident to start painting on boarded-up storefronts. She jogs and walks in East River Park all the time and chalks on its paths. (Photo by The Village Sun)
More work by Thechalkjungle. “I like to play off black squares,” she said. (Photo by The Village Sun)
Thechalkjungle preps another area for painting. (Photo by The Village Sun)
Ian Knife believes VARA has a chance of slowing down the de Blasio administration’s plan to bury East River Park. (Photo by The Village Sun)
Ian Knife rolling out a “Save Our Park” in jumbo white letters that will hopefully be visible to TV news helicopters. (Photo by The Village Sun)

Ian Knife, a Stuyvesant Town artist, said he thinks the VARA angle can work in the amphitheater’s — and the park’s — favor.

“I think the piece is definitely going to have value,” he said of the Art Attack. “It’s going to slow down the process [of demolishing the park]. We hope it’s going to start a conversation.”

Word had been that Tom Otterness would participate. A couple of weeks ago the Lower East Side artist — known for his quirky brass subway figures — had even done some preliminary drawings for the Art Attack in his distinctive style. But he was reportedly out of town on Saturday.

One big name that did make the scene was Al Diaz, the graffiti partner of the late Jean-Michel Basquiat. Diaz showed up toward the end of the event and spray-painted a piece on the amphitheater’s uptown-side exterior.

Artist Tine Kindermann, of the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Education Center, working on her piece. She used a photo as a guide to trace its outlines. “It was based on a photo of our daughter’s first protest — against the first Iraq War,” she said. “She was four then. Now she works as a community organizer in Bushwick! I added the bird.” (Photo by The Village Sun)
Helene Wolfe painted some interesting fern-like patterns on the front of the amphitheater. (Photo by The Village Sun)
Unicorn power! Save East River Park! (Photo by The Village Sun)
Jayson Miller from Brooklyn painted on the front of the amphitheater. “Art can make our voices heard and it stays after we walk away,” he said.

Also joining the artists, though not painting, was Pat Arnow, the leader of East River Park ACTION, which has sued in court to stop the E.S.C.R. plan. The opponents say the city’s scheme is far too extreme and that the project’s original design is what should be executed — namely, to build a simple earthen berm along the east side of the F.D.R. Drive instead of burying the park and felling 1,000 trees.

Pat Arnow, the leader of East River Park ACTION, said, “There are green alternatives” to the city’s draconian E.S.C.R. plan. (Photo by The Village Sun)
The opponents think the E.S.C.R. plan is totally nuts. (Photo by The Village Sun)
(Photo by The Village Sun)

Naturally, the guerrilla event didn’t have a permit. As the artists worked, helpers kept an eye out for police and Parks Enforcement Patrol officers. At one point, a helicopter flew overhead, but Patricia Perlo, a marathoner who used the park’s track to train, said it was “too high” to see the graffiti going on below and also did not have N.Y.P.D. markings.

At another point, they heard a loud whistle, at which Knife told everyone, “Put your cans in the bushes and walk away!” But after a few minutes he said it appeared it was a “false alarm.”

Barbara Augsburger, a member of East River Park ACTION, was watching the artists at work on Saturday. Having had three dogs over the years, it’s been her routine to visit the park every day.

(Photo by The Village Sun)
The Women of Rivington School pitched in on the amphitheater effort. Maggie Reilly said the females from the 1980s Lower East Side art center are reforming and looking for a space. On the other hand, the Rivington School men aren’t too organized, she said. (Photo by The Village Sun)

“Every day, every morning,” she said. “Most of my best friends, I met in the park, they’re dog walkers.”

She said a grassy bluff that was glowing golden in the sunset just south of the amphitheater is her favorite spot in the park.

“You always get a breeze there,” she said.

She noted she recently saw a photo of East River Park when it was first being built — it was completely barren with no trees — and she got an ominous feeling about a post-E.S.C.R. park.

“I’m afraid it will look like that,” she said.

4 Comments

  1. ------m ------m October 10, 2020

    LOVE IT …….. ALL OF IT — the plan, the artists, the execution….all of it!!!
    the city administration & the REBNY-funded mayor should respect ALL of our citizens’ thoughtfully worked-out community-based plans.
    STOP throwing out previously agreed-upon plans …. start paying attention to our communities!
    STOP DESTROYING THE HEART & SOUL OF OUR CITY!!!!

  2. Kevin Harris Kevin Harris October 10, 2020

    Thanks! Save the Amp!

  3. David David October 11, 2020

    Parks power-washed it away.

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