Off the map! Artists want to turn Bushwick street into a sculpture park

Artists paint a two-story mural on the wall of building on Vandervoort Place- an initial step in an ambitious plan to convert the street into a park.
Photo by Aaron Short

Street artists want to turn a trash-riddled East Williamsburg side road into a new park.

On Saturday, Factory Fresh gallery teamed up with Trust Art to close down Vandervoort Place, a narrow one-block street between Flushing Avenue and Thames Street on the Bushwick-Williamsburg border, for an all-day block party to generate excitement for a proposal to permanently close the street and convert it into a sculpture park.

The idea is the brainchild of Factory Fresh gallery director Ali Ha and her husband, artist Ad Deville, who were attracted to their Flushing Avenue space two years ago because of the potential they saw in the narrow neighboring street.

“When we were looking for different a property, knowing that this block was unused was one of the main reasons why we wanted to move there,” said Deville. “It’s one of the few blocks in all of New York that did not have alternate-side parking. There’s no sign — you could just leave your car there.”

The street, once known to neighboring residents and business owners as “crack alley,” was a popular place for car break-ins, drug trafficking, and prostitution, although these days, Deville mostly finds well-worn tires and broken glass.

“Someone threw a condom on my bumper recently,” said Deville.

Ha estimates it would cost about $64,000 to permanently close the street and pay for costs associated with the city’s land-use review process to rezone it as parkland.

But Trust Art, an arts nonprofit known for innovative projects throughout Brooklyn including Greenpoint’s School of the Future, has taken the reins of the project, raising $1,043 so far and sponsoring events such as the street art block party.

Deville and Ha approached their neighbors with their long-term plans to convert the site into a park, receiving encouragement from Flushing Avenue storefronts and the owner of an adjoining brick warehouse that stores vegetables.

Ha is also planning new projects on the wall, perhaps a one-day sculpture installation, more murals, and even outdoor art classes, as the plan to take the street off the map is submitted to the city.

“We’re going to start curating the wall,” said Ha. “This is just the first use of it. The park is a process that could take five to 10 years and there’s a lot of politics involved.”

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