EAST VILLAGE — The newly redesigned Astor Place will include seven mosaic-encrusted light poles designed by Jim “Mosaic Man” Power after a long community campaign to keep the beloved fixtures in the space.
The light poles, featuring multicolored mosaics crafted by Power, stood in Astor Place for years before the city removed them in October 2014 to make way for the redesign.
But after an outpouring of interest at community workshops, advocacy work from neighborhood groups, and an extensive petitioning process, the Mosaic Man’s art will live on in the plaza.
“It came out that people really responded to Jim’s mosaic poles, and at that time it wasn’t on anyone’s radar,” said William Kelley, executive director of the Village Alliance. “We’re really interested in what happens to the space, and we also love them, so we went to the city and said ‘Hey, how can we make this work?’’
While the poles had no place in initial plans for the redesign, the Village Alliance set about working with the Department of Transportation, City Lore and Power himself to come up with a new design for the project that included the works.
Community Boards 2 and 3 in December heard a handful of proposals incorporating the poles. With the boards’ feedback, the Village Alliance went to the transportation department to petition the salvaging of the mosaics, then to the Department of Design and Construction to ask it to seal the deal.
And though Kelley initially speculated it may take two to four months for the proposal to go through the DDC, the process ended up taking a year and a half — the city signed off on the proposal last summer, to the group’s relief.
The previously retired light poles have now being taken out of storage, and Power is in the process of restoring them at the Sixth Street Community Center, which has donated its garden as a workspace.
Power, who had started tearing down the mosaics to protest the city’s initial redesign plan, says he is now on board and is pleased his art is being reinstated for community members to enjoy.
“It’s great — it’s a great honor to have them up there,” he said. “I think people are going to love them.”
Power said the refurbished poles will be new-and-improved versions of the ones that had stood in the plaza for years, with some new faces – one mosaic will include a portrait of former New York City Mayor David Dinkins, while another will include a portrait of suffragette Susan B. Anthony.
The lampposts will not be functional, but will be decorative, with steel caps instead of lights.
Among advocacy efforts to keep the mosaics in Astor Place, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation was a cheerleader in the push to reinstall Power’s art, and is thrilled with the new redesign plan.
“The inclusion of the mosaics was very important to us,” said Harry Bubbins. “Thanks to the supportive dynamic of the Village Alliance and the advocacy of groups like ours, Mr. Power’s work is being recognized as a valuable aspect of our community.”
Power is hoping to have the restorations done by August for a tentative September installation, said Kelley.