BY DENA PEARLMAN | As some news media have reported, the Tiles for America Memorial has been taken down. But the fact that they have been taken without authority by a grassroots, self-serving group led by misinformation created by Village resident Dusty Berke and Andretti Mullens seems to be absent.
During a meeting with the Contemporary Ceramic Studios Association in August, Berke told the C.C.S.A.’s board of directors that she had established a nonprofit, 501c3 organization, secured a home for the tiles as 62 Greenwich Ave. and was in a good financial situation. Based on this information and contingent on these items being factual, the C.C.S.A. board approved the transfer of ownership to Tiles for America Preservation Society. The C.C.S.A. then sent me, the association’s executive director, to New York to help with the transition of removing the tiles, support fundraising efforts and set up the new memorial location.
On Mon., Sept. 10, 2012, I revealed that the Tiles for America Preservation Society had not been productive in securing a location, nor obtaining their nonprofit filing status, nor did they have a plan to remove the tiles in a timely manner prior to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s deadline to break ground on its subway-fan vent facility at Greenwich Ave. and Seventh Ave. South.
The organization was actually a sole proprietorship, owned by Berke — Tiles for America Preservation Project. The intended location for the tiles’ new home, at 62 Greenwich Ave., was only an intent letter and no lease had been signed. No bank account with deposited funds existed.
M.T.A. construction was to begin on Mon., Sept. 17, which meant the tiles needed to be removed by Fri., Sept. 14. Seeing that the leaders, Berke and Mullens, were ill prepared, I made a backup plan to ensure the tiles were properly packed and stored if Berke and Mullens did not succeed to protect the public interest.
Berke and Mullens were sent a letter stating that they no longer had any rights to the tiles since they were unable to adhere to the deadline. Also, the C.C.S.A. was skeptical of their ability to safeguard the tiles and their financial stability. In the letter to Berke and Mullens, I clearly indicated that the tiles would indeed be turned back over to the community when they could provide proof that a nonprofit, 501c3 was formed, a board of advisers was installed, bylaws were voted on and accepted, a five-year plan was developed and they were fiscally sound.
Ignoring calls and e-mails from the C.C.S.A., Berke and Mullens embarked on a personally driven crusade to remove the tiles without permission.
At this time, the C.C.S.A. has received word that the tiles are located in Berke’s apartment and realizes they are not correctly stored since the photos posted by Berke and Mullens show them packed improperly. The C.C.S.A.’s hope is that none of the tiles were damaged in Berke and Mullens’s efforts.
The C.C.S.A. is calling on the residents of Manhattan to join us in our anguish by sending a clear message to the authorities that the tiles are the people’s — not two people’s personal, financial or egocentric platform. This is a national people’s memorial.
Pearlman is executive director, Contemporary Ceramic Studio Association