Art attacked! State park cops reuglify DUMBO building

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An evolution-themed artwork that beautified an ugly scaffolding was ripped down by state officials who claimed the artists did their public service without permission.

On May 8, the artist group De-Fence installed wood cutouts of various flora and fauna on the eyesore scaffold that has surrounded the Empire Stores warehouse in DUMBO for two years. The work depicted a storyline of evolution, moving from small water creatures to a throng of birds bursting into flight.

Locals hailed the piece, but the more-important critics work at the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, which removed the artwork on Monday.

“I can’t say I’m surprised,” said John Jeffreys, president of Exhibitology Incorporated, which funded the project. “We didn’t really get permission to do it. Their reaction is one they have to take, but a bit of an over-reaction.”

Rachel Gordon, the regional director of state Parks, said she had to act only because the group didn’t bother to get permission, rendering the nature-friendly artwork vandalism.

“They never even attempted to get permission,” Gordon said. “We have lots and lots of art events, but you just have to ask for permission.”

The art project was timed to coincide with BKLYN Designs at St. Ann’s Warehouse on Water Street between Main and Dock streets, across from the decrepit Empire Stores, a Civil War-era building that is falling apart as the state decides what to do with it.

After state workers did their dirty work on Monday, locals were upset at the return of the “bleak fence,” Jeffreys said.

“Residents from the area were so sad that it was going,” he said. “If it’s an improvement and everyone likes it, can’t we listen to that and make it work?”

Gordon was undeterred.

“They vandalized state park property,” Gordon said. “And it was so unsafe; nobody seems to focus on that. It was not done with the safety of the community in mind.”area

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Reader Feedback

Frank from Boerum says:
BS. The bureaucrats who run that park are incompetent reactionary stuffed suits. I can just imagine the glee in the eyes of their creepy and surly rangers getting to take this down.
May 13, 2009, 11:49 am
freddy from slope says:
my bet is that the artists didnt insure their work or indemnify the state.

did Exhibitology Incorporated insure or indemnify?
May 13, 2009, 2:30 pm
mara from williamsburg says:
It seems pretty silly not to just go ahead and ask if you could install it. That said, it was a nice piece and it's too bad to see it come down.
May 13, 2009, 4:20 pm
Bob from B-burg says:
Oh, c'mon -- how much trouble is it to ask if you can install something? Not doing so seems pretty nyah-nyah "I gotta be me" adolescent.

Let's face it -- who'd get sued if the Parks people didn't intervene, and the stuff landed on someone's head?
May 13, 2009, 11:06 pm
Sam from Bay Ridge says:
Its good to see other readers are realistic about the simple act of asking permission.

I expected to click on "Discussion" and see a bunch of rants on how this deprtment wasa bunch of art hating Nazis.
May 14, 2009, Noon
Frank says:
If the De-Fence had concentrated more on organising a community project, rather than wanting to play underground heroes fighting "The Man", the art would still be in place...

Public art is about involving the -public-, not just throwing money at a bunch of NYU hipsters to go and do as they please.
May 14, 2009, 3:06 pm
french chris from london says:
real shame.
Maybe the state officials could give "permission" (stupid power tripping suits) and then earn a little respect back by financing De-fence to recreate the project.
May 14, 2009, 3:59 pm
Vincent from Williamsburg says:
french chris from london says: "the state officials could give "permission" (stupid power tripping suits) and then earn a little respect back by financing De-fence to recreate the project."

Before you start spending taxpayers' money:
If the artists really gave a bleep about the public community, they'd have gotten this vetted at the outset -- to insure safety, get community input, and insure that the esthetics lasted for more than a few days.

Instead, they did a no-permission, no-safety-vetting art project that cost taxpayer $ to take down, would've cost more taxpayer $ if the stuff popped loose and hurt someone (you think a victim would, or could, sue De-fence? ha!), and was based only on what De-fence wanted.

I don't see any reason to reward that kind of baseline plain-dumbness.
May 15, 2009, 5:20 pm
french chris from london says:
hey mister health and safety Vinc,
Since this piece was to accommodate scaffolding, we could speculate that it was only to be temporary anyway (unless the state officials were never gonna do the repairs... that's another issue).
From the article, it seems the people liked it and it cost them no tax money.
It's saddening that society is so square these days, not everything has to follow the same dull guidelines set by some government text book.
May 24, 2009, 7:40 pm

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