Petrosino Square has seen its share of public art displays

Public artworks in Petrosino Square since 1984 have included, top row, from left: “Molecular Motion,” by Lisa Hoke, in 1984; and Stephen Whisler’s “Tongue of Fire,” in 1985; middle row, from left: Rudolph Serra’s unnamed piece perched between the square’s entrance piers, in 1988; and “Let Them Die in the Streets,” a series of signs about the AIDS crisis and homelessness that ringed the square’s fence by the ACT UP artists collective Gran Fury, in 1990; bottom row, from left, Minsuk Cho’s 2007 “Ring Dome,” made of white hula hoops; and, more recently, Carole Feuerman’s “Survival of Serena,” from May to September 2012.

Public artworks in Petrosino Square since 1984 have included, top row, from left: “Molecular Motion,” by Lisa Hoke, in 1984; and Stephen Whisler’s “Tongue of Fire,” in 1985; middle row, from left: Rudolph Serra’s unnamed piece perched between the square’s entrance piers, in 1988; and “Let Them Die in the Streets,” a series of signs about the AIDS crisis and homelessness that ringed the square’s fence by the ACT UP artists collective Gran Fury, in 1990; bottom row, from left, Minsuk Cho’s 2007 “Ring Dome,” made of white hula hoops; and, more recently, Carole Feuerman’s “Survival of Serena,” from May to September 2012.

2BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | A vocal core of residents around Soho’s Petrosino Square are protesting the siting of a new Citi Bike docking station on the triangular island’s northern end, saying it has “usurped” a spot traditionally used for public art displays.

Indeed, the spot, formerly known as Kenmare Square, has been home to public art since 1984, when a Lower Manhattan Cultural Council-sponsored installation, Lisa Hoke’s “Molecular Motion,” first graced it.

Other notable works included Stephen Whisler’s monolithic “Tongue of Fire,” in 1985; Rudolph Serra’s unnamed white, ball-like piece perched between the square’s entrance piers in 1988; “Let Them Die in the Streets,” a series of signs about the AIDS crisis and homelessness ringing the square’s fence by the ACT UP artists collective Gran Fury, in 1990; and Minsuk Cho’s 2007 “Ring Dome,” constructed of white hula hoops.

In 1987, the park within the square was renamed for New York police Lieutenant Joseph Petrosino (1860-1909), who was a pioneer in the fight against the mafia.

Other works in the triangle, at Spring and Lafayette Sts., have included pieces sponsored by Storefront for Art and Architecture, such as Nancy Hwang’s “S: An Urban Oasis,” in 2002, in which people could get their hair cut underneath potted palm trees; and Kim Holleman’s “A Park in a Trailer in a Park,” 2006, featuring a trailer with a park constructed inside it.

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From 2008 to 2011 Petrosino Square was closed for renovation. After it reopened, public art exhibits continued in the open space at its northern corner, including Carole Feuerman’s “Survival of Serena,” from May to September 2012; and Jessica Feldman’s “The Glass Sea,” from October to November 2012.

The latest public artwork, installed last month by the Parks Department and running through September, is Tracey Emin’s “Roman Standard.” But this last piece, critics say, is not in the art-installation space taken over by Citi Bike, but rather in a green, planted area inside the fenced-in park.

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“Greenery had to be taken up to accommodate the large steel plate to which this artwork is anchored, which demonstrates in itself why we need the installation space,” said Georgette Fleischer, founder of Friends of Petrosino Square.

Images of the public artworks were provided to The Villager by Fleischer, fellow Soho activist Pete Davies and, in some cases, by the artists themselves. Davies noted that the L.M.C.C. Web site states that 30 years’ worth of archives held in the organization’s offices at the World Trade Center were destroyed on 9/11.

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“So, much of their record may have been lost,” he said. The Villager also reached out the city’s Parks Department to see if it had images of the 30-plus years of art displays in Petrosino Square, but Parks never responded.

However, Fleischer forwarded to The Villager e-mails from Parks officials showing that they clearly understood the historic role of public art in the square.

After Fleischer reached out via e-mail to Christopher Crowley, a designer with Parks, to convey the community’s concerns, Crowley, in turn, e-mailed Steve Simon, Parks chief of staff, on April 5, saying, “Hi Steve, Georgette is right. There was a lot of effort during the design phase to preserve the front triangle of Petrosino for art display. This is why there is a lack of green in this area.”

Less than an hour later, Simon e-mailed Colleen Chattergoon, community liaison for Margaret Forgione, Manhattan borough commissioner of the Department of Transportation, regarding the community opposition to a bike-share rack at Petrosino Square:

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“Colleen: Please let D.O.T. Borough Commissioner Forgione and the Director of Bike-Share know that Manhattan Parks Commissioner Bill Castro agrees that this is not an appropriate location for a bike station.”

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8 Responses to Petrosino Square has seen its share of public art displays

  1. So why does DOT refuse to return the art space? Why can't DOT just move the bikes onto Lafayette?

    Has anyone asked DOT? Have they responded? If so, what is their excuse? It seems very unreasonable on their part – and anti-art.

    • Thank you, James T and please join our Tuesday morning free drawing classes in Petrosino Square to protest the theft of the park's public art space by DOT . If it is raining you can draw free at 64 Spring Street from 9: 30 am to 12:30 pm. Our elected representatives, our community organizations, and CB2 are all still trying to find a way to get our top officials to respect the laws of the state of New York and to remove the bike station to the roadbed nearby. BTW we support the bike-share program. I have never had a car. I transported my children on bikes and rode bikes all my youth in St. Louis where even poor people had cars in the 50's and 60's and 70's. Gasoline was cheap then.

  2. Carl Rosenstein

    The design for the park is horrendous without the bikes. The entire length of the triangle should have been green space to begin with. Soho needs trees more than art. It was obvious when the park was finished that the paved area was ripe for commercial use. It's the worst pocket park downtown.

  3. Earlier this week the Friends of Petrosino Square sent to DOT Commissioner Sadik-Khan and Parks Commissioner Veronica M. White our petition (37 pages with 550+ signatures, all collected from visitors at Petrosino Square), which states the following:

    PETITION to NYC DOT & NYC Parks

    RESTORE OUR PUBLIC ART INSTALLATION SPACE AT PETROSINO SQUARE

    We call on DOT to restore our public art installation space at Petrosino Square and have the CitiBike racks removed from this small local park.

    Those racks could be placed at a nearby curb, outside the public park. One logical space for the racks is across the street, on the north side of Spring at Lafayette.

    Our community is starved for open park space. The recent installation of the CitiBike racks in Petrosino Square takes up nearly 1/3 of this little park. That area was dedicated to the presentation of public art when Petrosino Square was recently enlarged. The area where the racks are now placed – right in the middle of the public art space – has always been a part of this park and that area should be left open and available to the installation of art.

    The result of our plea to these public officials? So far we've not heard one word back from either NYC DOT or NYC Parks.

  4. Maybe, possible to find another place for bike-station?

  5. susanna cuyler

    I saved the gold shoe shapes from Storefront's
    dance. We all share geographic associations
    esp. at irregular shaped central sites.

  6. For Citibank, the Citibike project is obviously an important effort at greenwashing its tarnished reputation. Demographics — the presence and increase of gentrification — probably dictate a station somewhere in the immediate area. However, it does not seem likely that Citibank management has any particular interest in Petrosino Square Park. Rather, I suspect the intransigence of the DOT must be attributed to a relation with some influential local stakeholder who does not want the racks in front of or near the entrance of the business, where they would be if not in the park. Now, who would that be?

  7. The bike racks would be perfect pairing for the Holiday Inn on Lafayette and Grand where the tourists would be greatful NOT to have to take a taxi. Lafayette is also much WIDER there. Then If the City and CITIBank were smart, they would give the tourists at the hotel 3-day passes $50 or all week passes of unlimited ridership for a flat fee of $100 for families and $80 for individuals. OR Chelsea Piers. I don't think they have bicycle rentals there, but they do have a nice bike path. There are So many OTHER places this stupid bike station could have been placed. Bloomberg and Citibank only insisted on Petrosino Park because they HATE hearing NO.
    No one tells them –NO. I agree with anarcisse post on the Citibank's feeble attempt at " 'green washing' of their already tarnished reputation".

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