The dreariest part of the walk to Pier 6 is about to get brighter, thanks to a new mural that will transform one whole side of the Atlantic Avenue underpass into a cheery street scene.
Volunteers gathered Thursday to begin painting the tunnel, which runs for a half-block under the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. The highway separates Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill from Brooklyn Bridge Park, forcing parkgoers to walk a noisy, poorly lit gauntlet. Backers of the plan say that, for pedestrians, the underpass creates a rift between the world-class greenspace and Atlantic Avenue’s thriving shopping district — and that the problem is only made worse by the scary-to-cross expressway on-ramp near Columbia Street.
“The mural is the first step to creating a much better connection between [parkgoers] and the up-and-coming shops of Atlantic Avenue,” said Josef Szende, executive director of the Atlantic Avenue Business Improvement District.
Borough artists Esteban Del Valle and Marc Evan are leading up the team of 17 artists and high school students who are gussying up the passageway at the foot of Atlantic Avenue, a project they say will take two weeks. The group gathered ideas for the image, a whimsical street scene, by going door-to-door and soliciting opinions from neighborhood shopkeepers.
“The common thread [from everyone we asked] was that it was a gloomy space,” Del Valle said.
The Atlantic Avenue Business Improvement District funded the project through a $75,000 city grant earmarked for a so-called “funderpass.”
The merchants group has scrapped the “funderpass” name, but is working with architecture firm Interboro Partners to make the underpass safer and more welcoming by installing more lighting, directional signage, and benches.