Press "Enter" to skip to content

‘Cube’ back in the groove at Astor Place

BY THE VILLAGE SUN | Now here’s some positive spin for once.

The beloved Astor Place “Cube” was returned to its perch on Tuesday morning, fresh from a tune-up to ensure that the sculpture can safely spin once again.

Ydanis Rodriguez, the commissioner of the city’s Department of Transportation, led the rededication ceremony.

In March 2022, The Village Sun first reported that the Tony Rosenthal sculpture, also known as “The Alamo,” needed to be repaired once again — this time because its hardware allowing it to pivot had worn out.

Then, in May 2022, The Village Sun first reported that a brace had been added to the piece’s base to keep it stable until it could be repaired.

Fast-forward one year to early this May, and “The Cube” was finally removed off-site for repairs. The necessary fixes were speedily done in just three months, which Siebren Versteeg, co-C.E.O. of Versteeg Art Fabricators in Bethany, Connecticut, called a “record-breaking” pace.

“Yes, it was missed,” Rodriguez said, “but we told everyone it would be back…and here it is.”

The Tony Rosenthal Estate funded the sculpture’s repair and renovation.

The public artwork, one of 23 in D.O.T.’s permanent art portfolio, has sat at the location since 1967, when the spot was a triangular traffic island. In 2016, one block of Astor Place roadway was closed and demapped between Lafayette Street and Cooper Square, creating what the city has dubbed Alamo Plaza — though most people still probably just known it as Astor Place.

“The ‘Alamo Cube’ is a true icon of not only East Village and Astor Place but all New York City and the United States,” Rodriguez said. “Millions of New Yorkers and visitors want to come here to spin and take a photo of this great sculpture. So many can share stories of the first time they hung out here by ‘The Cube’ — and, more memorable, the first time they spun it.”

But, the commissioner said, wear and tear took a toll on the artwork and, “We realized a few years ago that it was time for ‘The Cube’ to take a rest.”

While the temporary bracket at least held the hobbled artwork safely in place, it was “less fun” during that period, Rodriguez admitted.

Plugging the annual Summer Streets event, the D.O.T. leader said it was great to have “The Cube” back in place for when droves of cyclists will stream past it on car-free Lafayette Street on the first three Saturdays in August.

Kendal Henry, the assistant commissioner of the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs, noted that “The Cube” has assumed “urban legend” status, appearing in a subway mural and being the subject of a video documentary by a man who incredibly claimed to have lived inside the hollow artwork.

“This, I daresay,” Henry declared, “is one of the most successful works of art in New York City.”

Versteeg noted that his late father, Peter, oversaw the sculpture’s previous major restoration in 2005.

“I’m very honored to be part of a second generation now to honor and steward over this very important piece of artwork,” he said.

Versteeg explained that a teflon washer had been added, allowing the sculpture to spin smoothly again, and that when the part wears out next time decades from now, it will be much easier to replace: “The Cube” will just be able to be lifted up a few inches and a new washer in two halves can be inserted.

“It’s quite simple to restore and refresh the washer,” he said.

Rodriguez gave a shout-out to the Village Alliance business improvement district for doing a good job managing both the sculpture and the surrounding plaza.

Scott Hobbs, the BID’s executive director, said, “We’re so excited to have this piece back… . This piece is basically the most iconic part of our neighborhood, in the most central, amazing public space that we have the honor of maintaining.”

Hobbs announced that on Sun., July 23, at 5:30 p.m., the Village Alliance and Joe’s Pub will throw a party in the plaza — with dancing, music and food — to celebrate “The Cube”‘s return.

Also on the Alamo Plaza, Hobbs added that the farmer’s market will be there every Tuesday till November.

City Councilmember Carlina Rivera said of “The Alamo,” “It is truly like our Leaning Tower of Pisa. The attraction almost happened by accident — but it is lasting, it is so iconic. And people come here from all over the world, just to stand with it, to take a picture with it, and of course to give it a spin, which I’m excited to do.”

Rivera also praised the 2016 D.O.T. project that created the expanded plaza areas at Astor Place for, as she put it, “reclaiming public space — because it can be a place for art, for interaction…forever.”


  1. Choresh Wald Choresh Wald July 18, 2023

    The time to make Astor Place between Lafayette and Broadway a shared street is now.

    • pritzker pritzker July 19, 2023

      Do not agree with making Astor a shared street.

Leave a Reply

Mission News Theme by Compete Themes.