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Frozen ‘Cube’: Iconic Astor Place sculpture’s pivoting days in the past?

BY THE VILLAGE SUN | Updated May 19, 5:30 p.m.: “The Cube” don’t move — at least not anymore.

The city Department of Transportation has ingeniously solved the problem of the wonky spinning mechanism of “The Alamo,” the real name of Tony Rosenthal’s 1960s-era sculpture at Astor Plaza: It no longer spins. Period. Problem solved — though, on the other hand, no more spinning fun.

The 1960s sculpture now sits securely in its own supportive holder, which was added to keep the spinning part of the art from suffering further damage. (Photo by The Village Sun)

Only about six years ago, the iconic sculpture went into the shop for repairs to the tune of $180,000. However, as The Village Sun first reported a couple of months ago, it was recently discovered that there were problems with the spinning of the structure, which apparently could have caused it further damage if not addressed.

The once-turnable artwork has been braced into place. (Photo by The Village Sun)

Instead of fixing the pivot right now, though, the city agency just decided to, well…lock the public artwork into place by adding metal braces around its base. As a result, the swinging ’60s sculpture is now immovable.

According to a source close to the project, D.O.T. just didn’t want to spend any more money trying to fix the sculpture’s spin glitch.

The sculpture was most recently restored from 2014 to 2016, when it was removed from the street to clean it of grime, graffiti and food stains.

The spin cycle for “The Alamo” is over, at least for now. It sounds like there’s a chance it could someday spin again, though. (Photo by The Village Sun)

“The Alamo” was also previously restored in 1987 and 2005.

However, there is apparently still hope that art lovers, random passersby and inebriated bar crawlers alike will once again get to spin the chunky landmark. According to Vincent Barone, a D.O.T. spokesperson, the saga of “The Cube” actually is not over yet and there is still more work to do.

“There will be a second repair phase with timeline TBD,” he said.

Barone, though, did not provide more details in terms of what exactly ails the artwork or what phase two will entail — only further adding to the mystery enshrouding the monolithic monument.

The piece was first installed at the prominent East Village location back in 1967. It sat on its own traffic island until a few years ago, when part of Astor Place was demapped to turn the area into an expanded pedestrian plaza.

The public artwork weighs 850 pounds, stands 15 feet tall and is wrought of 1/8-inch thick steel.

It’s one of about two-dozen pieces of art that are in the D.O.T. collection.


  1. James power James power May 21, 2022

    I believe this is NOT the original Cube. Just one of several “phony” copies… They spent $180,000 to fix it the last time. And only $10,000 for repair of the Mosaic Trail, with its iconic lightpoles. It is the end. Gone. Too far. I have to stop. Sad the work won’t last. What a shame… I spent 35 years, 30 of them homeless, to beautify the city. No support. Very little. Village Alisnce won’t do business with me…because of bad press… Now…I am at war with the city. The 35th anniversary of the Mosaic Trail. I. GOT. CHEATED. THEY TRIED TO DESTROY THIS PROJECT. … WON’T.LAST. … MY.LAST.YEAR. The Mosaic Trial 1987-2022. SAD…FOR THE CITY…MORE ON THIS… TO COME…

  2. n pasley n pasley May 19, 2022

    You can rely on DOT to do something cheap and ugly.

  3. James Wechsler James Wechsler May 18, 2022

    Such a screw-up! This public work of art used to bring strangers together because it’s too heavy for most people to spin it alone. Someone would start to spin it and others would spontaneously join. It never failed. Until the D.O.T.’s ham-handed effort. Now it’s a monument to failure.

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