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David Byrne to Face Off With Design Commission Over Ft. Greene Bike Racks

By Janet Upadhye | January 23, 2013 7:27am

FORT GREENE —Alphabet-shaped bike racks designed by Talking Heads singer David Byrne may be on "the road to nowhere" unless they get approval from the city’s Public Design Commission.

The racks, unveiled outside the Brooklyn Academy of Music in August 2012, can be altered to spell out words and phrases. The current words, chosen by Byrne, spell "Pink Crown" and "Micro Lip."

But in order to become a permanent addition to the landscape, the Design Commission must approve.

The design is set to be reviewed by Brooklyn's Community Board 2 for recommendation to the Public Design Commission.

And the Design Commission has not always been favorable to his work.

In 2008 they rejected two of Byrne's bike rack designs. One design, created in the shape of a liquor bottle, was “deemed to be in bad taste,” according to Byrne's online journal.

In an online rant, the "Burning Down The House" singer called the Design Commission "gatekeepers," writing "I wonder how many emerging artists would have the patience for the form-filling, waiting, and political stupidity that is involved in going via the gatekeepers—not many, I would think."

But five years later, Byrne was excited for another opportunity to make bike racks for New York City.

"What a thrill to be invited to design more bike racks for NYC,” he said. “I get to BAM fairly often, and the existing racks are often full, so it’s great that there will now be more.”

His newest creations join the ranks of nine other racks from Wall Street to Harlem that were approved for permanency by the Design Commission. Made in the shapes of symbols that represent their locations — a dollar sign on Wall Street, a high heel shoe on Fifth Avenue and a curvy woman's silhouette in Time Square — the racks provide a hip place for cyclists to lock up.

Byrne's Fort Greene racks have been in full use since they were erected and BAM President Karen Brooks Hopkins is happy with the result.

“BAM is at the center of a neighborhood that is brimming with bike activity,” she said. “We are excited to offer these additional racks to our audience and the community.”

But whether the racks will have a permanent home at BAM will be left to Community Board 2 and the Design Commission to decide.

Community Board 2 will meet Wednesday, Jan. 23 at 6:00 in the Jonas Board Room at Long Island University to review the designs. Public comment is welcome.