EAST VILLAGE — After nearly two years of repair work and months of delays, the beloved Alamo Cube made its long-awaited return to Astor Place on Tuesday.
Onlookers cheered as the three-dimensional cube was lifted by crane and carefully secured onto its platform in the newly renovated pedestrian plaza at around 3:30 p.m, and community members who had eagerly anticipated the sculpture's return said they were relieved to have an important piece of their neighborhood back.
"I'm very excited to see it back," said Maura Kennedy, who has lived near Astor Place for roughly 15 years with her husband, Pete.
"It's a focal point. We've lived in five different apartments in a two-block radius, and this is the middle of it. It's part of our neighborhood."
Onlookers cheer as the cube is returned pic.twitter.com/vDQGAE3eRo— Allegra Hobbs (@AllegraEHobbs) November 1, 2016
The cube was removed in November 2014 to make way for an extensive revamp of Astor Place, including a new pedestrian plaza, greenery, and lighting. It had been slated for a June return, then was rescheduled for August, but nothing happened.
The Department of Design and Construction most recently announced a September comeback, then canceled the installation due to "unforeseen logistical issues."
The cube's impromptu return Tuesday came as a surprise to community members and city officials alike.
The Department of Design and Construction had been waiting for conservators Aegis Restauro, LLC to finish up the extensive restoration process and give them the green light for reinstallation, explained a DDC rep at Tuesday's installation, and the agency finally got the go-ahead on Tuesday morning.
"It was a very extensive restoration, and we obviously want to be thorough," said DDC spokesman Daniel Leibel. "They had completed it to our expectations and brought it back today."
Art conservator Joanna Pietruszewski of Aegis Restauro said the restoration of the art piece, which first premiered in the square in 1967, had been challenging and time-consuming due to decades of wear and tear. Parts of the sculpture had been worn down from water damage over time, she explained.
"It was progressive damage that needed to be taken under control," said Pietruszewski. "There were areas of metal that were so corroded, it was no good for the sculpture."
The outside coating of the cube was removed during the restoration while dents, scratches and seams were filled and smoothed before the surface was re-painted, according to the DDC. Conservators used lasers to fix interior corrosion, some parts on the inside of the sculpture were replaced altogether, and extra structural support was added. The pivot that allows the cube to spin was also repaired, said the DDC.