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BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | The whereabouts of most of the 9/11 Tiles for America that once proudly adorned a chain-link fence at Greenwich and Seventh Aves. remains unknown after they were abruptly removed in mid-September by a group of self-appointed tile guardians.
The latest word is that these missing tiles, in fact, may soon be taken on some sort of “traveling show.”
But last week, dozens of the treasured tiles returned home to the Village in the form of an installation at the Jefferson Market Library at Sixth Ave. and W. 10th St., just a few blocks from where they once hung.
On Jan. 8, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the September 11th Families’ Association and the New York Public Library unveiled an exhibit of ceramic tiles that were a part of New York City’s first, spontaneous, public 9/11 memorial. The artwork served as a message of hope and comfort in a time of sorrow, becoming a revered tribute to those lost and injured on 9/11.
The memorial was also a must-see attraction on sightseeing bus routes, with the buses slowing down as they passed by, so that tourists could snap photos of the iconic, colorful squares.
The installation of small tiles drew an impressively large gathering of elected officials from the city, state and even federal levels — Congressmember Jerrold Nadler attended — plus community board members and Tony Marx, the N.Y.P.L. president.
“These tiles, both symbolically and visually beautiful, serve as a memorial to those who perished on 9/11, and are a tribute to the compassion and strength of our city,” Quinn said. “This exhibit is an important historical record to this community and to the city as a whole. We will continue to ensure that these pieces of art are preserved and cherished.”
“This beautiful memorial created from tiles made by people from all over the world both inspired and brought comfort to the community of Greenwich Village,” said Lee Ielpi, president of the September 11th Families’ Association.
“More than 11 years after the 9/11 tragedy, community support for the Tiles For America Memorial continues,” said Kami Hatley, president of the Contemporary Ceramics Studios Association. Extending thanks to Quinn and the library, Hatley said, “Speaking for all pottery studios internationally, as well as our customers who contributed to the tiles, we are grateful to you for continuing this memorial.”
New state Senator Brad Hoylman said the totemic tiles “serve as a unique and moving testament to the resilience of the Greenwich Village community and our city.”
Community Board 2, under Hoylman’s former chairmanship, passed a resolution in support of preserving the 9/11 memorial tiles in the Village.
“These tiles are remarkable, individual expressions of grief, shock and unity,” said Assemblymember Deborah Glick. “This display is a poignant reminder of those emotions and particularly important as the nation now engages in a discussion around gun violence. We are deeply grateful to Speaker Quinn, the 9/11 Tribute Center and the Jefferson Market Library for making these tiles available for the public to view.”
The Tiles for America Project was created by Lorrie Veasey at her studio, Our Name Is Mud, which was next to the fence. The library exhibit was created for Jefferson Market Library by the 9/11 Tribute Center and its umbrella organization, the September 11th Families’ Association. The organization’s mission is to gather and share the personal stories of the impact that 9/11 had on New York City, and to remember the tragedy as well as the healing power of people helping each other.
In mid-September, Greenwich Village resident Dusty Berke and Andretti Mullens took all the 9/11 Tiles for America off the chain-link fence at the Village memorial and removed them to another location. Ground was about to be broken on the vacant lot for its development into a “faux-cade” building — a structure with a brick exterior and phony details, like fake windows and a fake cornice — housing exhaust fans for the subway lines below.
Berke and Andretti opposed a plan, reportedly endorsed by Quinn, under which the tiles would have been removed to Albany, where some of them would possibly have been housed in a museum, while others would have been returned to the Village to be embedded into a strip along the new fan building’s “faux-cade.”
In September, Berke claimed she had an arrangement with a Greenwich Ave. restaurateur to display the 9/11 tiles in a building he owns next to the eatery, but the deal apparently didn’t pan out.
Meanwhile, the Contemporary Ceramics Studios Association cried that the tiles had been “kidnaped.” Berke panicked that she might be arrested and went to the Sixth Police Precinct to turn herself in, but no charges were filed. Detective Jimmy Alberici, a community affairs officer at the precinct, attempted mediation.
Berke and Andretti subsequently said they planned to put the tiles in a secure, art storage warehouse in New Jersey, but it was unclear if that has happened.
Berke did not return a request for comment by press time about where the rest of the 9/11 tiles are currently located.
On Wednesday, Alberici told The Villager, “I haven’t gotten any e-mails or calls from either Dusty or the C.C.S.A. for a few months now. The C.C.S.A. was trying to wash their hands of it. They [just] wanted to make sure the stuff stayed intact.
“Last time I talked to Dusty, she was talking about doing a traveling show,” he said, noting that was in October. “I think Dusty’s trustworthy enough not to break the tiles. They’re in a safe location — she wouldn’t divulge where.”