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Completion of Mosaic Man Lampposts May Be Delayed Due to Lack of Funds

By Allegra Hobbs | October 25, 2016 12:32pm
 Jim Power, or
Jim Power, or "Mosaic Man," wearing one of his belt buckles, has decorated many lampposts in the East Village.
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DNAinfo/Julie Shapiro

EAST VILLAGE — The completion of a beloved collection of mosaic-encrusted lampposts set to be installed as part of the newly redesigned Astor Place may be delayed due to a lack of funds, according to artist Jim "Mosaic Man" Power and his assistant.

The seven lampposts — which were removed in Oct. 2014 to make way for the Astor Place redesign — were tentatively scheduled to returned to the plaza in September after community pressure on the city's Department of Transportation and Department of Design and Construction.

So far, three of the historic lampposts crafted by Power have been installed in Astor Place, and three others — which Power initially began removing the mosaic tiles from in protest of their planned removal before coming to an agreement with the city.

Those three poles have since been restored and are now awaiting installation, according to Power's assistant Julie Powell. But the seventh lamppost is still undergoing the restoration process, and unless the artists manage to rake in enough funds from the community, it will have to be installed without a completed mosaic until next year.

If the seventh pole isn't finished by the time of installation, its base will likely be covered up until work can resume in the spring, said Powell.

"We're getting very nervous," said Power, who came out to work on the lampposts on-site on Oct. 19. "The time to finish this in this year is slipping into next year."

Power, a Vietnam veteran, also said he was increasingly unsure of his capacity to keep up the often grueling labor given his age and health — he plans to have surgery on both hips in the coming months, which would put him out of work for about three months.

"How long, at 69, am I going to do this? Already I've given up a lot. This is a lot more than that," he said. 

Power said he and his helpers need to be compensated for the labor, often surpassing 50 hours of work in a week, and that the flow of funds from donors has not been enough.

Councilwoman Rosie Mendez donated roughly $9,000 to the project, according to Power, while the Village Alliance, one of the groups that has supported the project, offered a comparable amount. 

The artist set up a page for donations on Gratitude.com to help crowdsource the funds they needed. But over the course of four months, it has only raked in $3,728 from 28 people as of Tuesday morning.

Power set up a sign in Astor Place bemoaning the paltry offerings.

"Only 26 people donated in three months," read the sign, posted to one of the already installed poles, emphasizing the word 'Only.' "1985-2017 RIP."

"We worked for very little money all summer long, and we are now both in financial stress because of this job," Powell lamented. 

The original plan for the redesigned Astor Place did not include the lampposts — but when community members called for the preservation of the beloved pieces, the city's Department of Design and Construction ultimately signed off on a design incorporating the restored poles, much to the relief of Power and supporting community groups such as the Village Alliance and the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. 

Representatives for the Village Alliance and GVSHP said they remain committed to the restoration of all seven lampposts.