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Endangered species: Street mosaics of animals getting paved over

Hole-y man: Jim Bachor installs one of his elaborate mosaics in a Brooklyn pothole.
Brooklyn Paper
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His art has faced some bumps in the road!

A Chicago artist patched five Brooklyn potholes last week, replacing the street hazards with elaborate glass and marble mosaics showing whimsical animals — some living and some roadkill. But the city’s Department of Transportation struck back against the unauthorized street repairs within days, digging up two of the pieces and pouring fresh concrete. The tile artist said that he was taken aback by the agency’s response.

“I’m stunned. I can’t believe it,” said Jim Bachor. “I’ve put in 67 of these things around the country, and I’ve never run into this kind of blowback.”

The paved-over images were part of the “Vermin of New York” series, showing a dead rat and a dead pigeon in Fort Greene and Prospect Heights, respectively. Bachor completed the five-part series in Manhattan, with images of a cockroach, Donald Trump’s face, and a bouquet of flowers. He suspects that the content of the series may have provoked the ire of the transportation board, but says that he did not intend the art as a slight on Gotham.

“It’s not a statement on New York,” said Bachor. “All I’m really doing is trying to make it iconic, and hopefully pretty at the same time. Some people have said ‘Oh, how pretty that dead rat is.’ ”

Bachor and his team spent several days on the project, setting up cones around the potholes, mixing up the concrete, slowly lowering in the mosaic, and then allowing it to dry over the course of 10 to 12 hours, he said. He did not seek permission from the city for his project, and kept his head down when authorities drove past. He had no troubles when installing the pieces, Bachpor said.

“I’ve had a couple of brief conversations with city workers going by,” Bachor said. “They don’t really care.”

His mistake, said Bachor, was in revealing the exact locations of the mosaics in an interview with the New York Post. A spokeswoman for the agency told the New York Post that it would cover the mosaics because “drivers might be distracted by the art.”

However, three of his project depicting woodland creatures still remain on Brooklyn streets. Those three, showing a fox, an otter, and an owl, were created in collaboration with the camping rental site Tentrr.com, which is hosting a social media scavenger hunt for the critters.

Those who want to see the remaining art should look for the fox in Bushwick, the otter in Dumbo, and the owl near Prospect Park, according to the contest website. But you should look for them soon, said Bachor — they might not last

“I think they’re probably okay,” he said. “As far as I know they’re still safe. Hopefully they last a little longer.”

Reach arts editor Bill Roundy at broundy@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–4507.
Updated 12:28 pm, July 25, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Ruth Brown (Brooklyn Paper) from NY Post says:
Jim revealed the exact location of the mosaics on his socials media pages -- and on the Kickstarter campaign page -- well before I wrote that article. It's how we found them!
July 24, 10:31 am

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