Last Friday around dawn, Red Hook’s self-proclaimed “Traffic Stopper” made a second covert appearance.
Under the glow of Van Brunt Street’s yellow street lamps, an anonymous creator and nine helpers lugged the seven-foot-tall, bright green sculpture into the middle of the intersection of Sullivan Street and left it there, where it would be sure to disturb the flow of traffic.
For some residents of Red Hook who woke up early last Friday and saw Traffic Stopper before cops removed it, the sculpture was a reminder of the growing pains being felt in the neighborhood as long-anticipated development projects, like Fairway and the Ikea being built on Beard Street, bring more cars and people to its quiet, cobblestone streets. Like a campaign sign clutched by a sleepy activist, the green cone carried a message in its wordless, early morning appearance.
“We need signs that tell people they can’t fly down here,” said Florence Neal, owner of Kentler International Drawing Space, a Van Brunt Street art gallery.
The guerrilla installation woke Neal around 3 am on Friday.
“I heard something and looked out the window and saw it: the green cone, all alone,” said Neal, who calls herself a fan of the piece.“Getting people to slow down and look is really hard, even in art gallery.”
And as it turns out, getting people to slow down on a public street, if you are not carrying a radar gun and a badge, is also quite difficult.
“Traffic Stopper Friday the 13th” only managed to stop traffic for about seven hours before the police came and took her away around 10:30 am.
“If this happens again, it will be removed again,” a spokesman for the police said. That’s what the cops said the last time, too.
But next time, it may not be so easy to “remove” the creative roadblock, according to Traffic Stopper’s anonymous maker, who came clean this week to Brooklyn Paper contributor Chris Curen.
“There are other streets and other projects,” the artist told Curen. “Like maybe rerouting traffic into an empty lot.”
The artist said that he had witnessed a fatal car accident last year at the corner of Van Brunt and Sullivan streets. Shortly after he installed the first Traffic Stopper, there was another accident on the same corner, luckily a non-fatal one. The city has said it will install a stoplight at the corner this fall, and “No Standing” signs will also be installed at the corner of Dikeman Street, the site of the renegade traffic cone.
“Even if they do put in a stoplight,” he said, “There is more to do. Red Hook was a last bastion of silence. It is changing.”
And with an Ikea megastore opening next year, the artist fears that things will only get worse.
“Why [is the city] bringing so many cars here?” he asked.
It’s a good question, especially considering that Van Brunt Street looks like it hasn’t been repaired since Hook native Al Capone last strode down it.
My main issue with the neighborhood’s streets involves this other sort of traffic-stopper — the gaping, infant-size potholes in the neighborhood’s streets.
In one way, the gouged asphalt is somewhat reassuring: a sign that no matter how many hand-decorated Baked cupcakes are sold on Van Brunt Street, the neighborhood once known for warships and drunks will remain a little dangerous, a little edgy.
But putting sentimentality aside, the truth is the potholes are a menace, not unlike a Volvo driver speeding to the olive oil bar at Fairway. And with that, I have an idea for the next work of Red Hook street art: a series of tar installations. It will be in situ, year-round and semi-permanent. The DOT can steal my working title if it wants: “Filled Potholes.”
The Kitchen Sink
No outs at Inn: Contrary to blogland’s rumors of an eviction, the new owner of the Brooklyn Inn won’t “do anything, but improve” the beloved Bergen Street tavern, according to a bartender who spoke to The Stoop on the condition of anonymity. …
Meanwhile, Zoila, the savory sandwich shop on Hoyt Street between Atlantic Avenue and State Street, has no such luck. Owner Martha Johnson told The Stoop that she is closing next week, after losing her lease. Johnson was aghast when we asked if she was looking at spaces in other neighborhoods. “I want to stay in Boerum Hill, with my regulars,” she said.