‘Art attack’ offered fleeting protest
of East River Park resiliency project
BY BY BOB BOB KRASNER
If any trees fall in East River
Park, there will be plenty of
people around to hear it — but
the results of a recent protest were
erased so quickly that not many
had the chance to witness it.
A diverse group of artists began
Annika Samuels opted for a hands on approach.
work late on Oct. 9 and by evening
had covered the park’s amphitheater
and nearby grounds with art
to call attention to the plight of the
park. Yet by Saturday afternoon,
all evidence of their discord had
been power-washed away.
The East River Park has become
a focal point for activists as
the city continues to push forward
its plan to build a seawall to protect
against a rising water level,
destroying the current park in the
process. The sprawling city park,
used by countless people every
day for exercise, family gatherings
or just solitary meditation,
will be unusable for years as the
city works to boost the area’s
resiliency to coastal storms.
“It’s a horrible plan!” says Murphy
Cox-Nicol, who is making a
documentary about the whole
mess. “They’ve already spent
millions to renovate the park and
now they want to spend over a
billion dollars, close the park for
fi ve years and destroy 1,000 trees.
Everything that is wrong with the
world is in this project – greed,
stupidity and destruction.”
“The city signed a death warrant
on the park, but we want to
be part of the conversation,” Ian
Knife tells us. Knife, who describes
himself as “just a local East
Village artist, activist, community
organizer”, came up with the idea
of mounting an “Art Attack” to
bring attention to the cause.
“We’re not just tagging,” he explains.
“We’re creating a massive
artwork.” Part of the idea is to
“invoke the Visual Artist Rights
Act to buy us more time.”
Pat Arnow of the activist group
Frank Ape, whose work is well
known in the East Village,
painted one of his signature
pieces so quickly that many of
the other artists had no idea
that he had been there.
East River Park ACTION states
the goal simply: “Our dream is
to stop this and get a better plan.
This is the most diverse park in
the city – everyone uses it.”
Artists came from all over and
quickly turned the bandshell into
Max poses with his almost
a collaborative canvas featuring
trees, squirrels, fl owers, slogans
and the occasional political message.
“Trump Final Dayz”, read
Frank Ape (aka Brandon Sines)
heard about the protest and lent
his talent, even though he doesn’t
live in the borough. “I hope we
can postpone what is happening,”
he said. “It’s beautiful here.”
Heather Litteer stopped on her
run to say how she felt. “This park
has been a sanctuary for me for
years. It would be a shame to lose
it now when we really need it.”
Elder statesman Al Diaz, who
created the legendary SAMO tag
Rivington School artists protested the proposed destruction
of 1000 trees.
with Jean-Michel Basquiat, arrived
as the sun set to show his
support by adorning a wall with
his fi rst solo tag, BOMB-1, which
he came up with as a teenager.
“It seemed more appropriate,”
he mused, before reminiscing
about hanging out at the bandshell
in the 1970s. “Nobody cared
about it then. There was a space
Jayson Miller paid tribute to
the endangered trees.
underneath the stage that was
fi lled with junkies.”
The city wasted no time destroying
the work, sending workers
in hazmat suits the next day to
power wash it clean.
Arnow, however, was feeling
positive about the piece despite
the outcome. “It was a great action,”
she said. “Whatever people
can do to bring awareness is a
PHOTOS BY BOB KRASNER
Knife, on the other hand, was
“devastated” when he heard that
their work was being erased.
“We wanted to send a loud
and clear message and they
wanted to destroy that message,”
he explained. “Our intention was
not vandalism, but an alternative
to an ‘Occupy Wall Street ‘ situation.
There are trees that fell in
the last storm and garbage that
hasn’t been cleaned up, but they
are spending money to erase art.”
Spoutnik, one of the artists
who spent hours collaborating
on a piece with Angry Red, was
undeterred. “We did it, it was
cool, it was not a waste of time,”
she stated. “I just want to know,
Pat Arnow of East River Park Action (left ) and organizer Ian
Knife spoke ti the artists and then got right to work.
Al Diaz, known for creating
the SAMO tag with Jean-
Michel Basquiat, came by to
sign the amphitheatre with
his original “BOMB” tag.
Schneps Media Oct. 15, 2020 5