The Struggle to Reinstate Jim Power’s Iconic ‘Mosaic Trail’ in Newly Configured Astor Place

Posted on: February 9th, 2016 at 9:22 am by

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Photo: Destiny Mata

With the Astor Place redesign entering its final phase of development, the famed “Mosaic Trail” is also poised for its comeback. The plans are to re-incorporate Jim Power’s ten existing light poles into the new design as decorative installations (i.e. not powered). But the preservation process carries its own complications.

You’ll recall that the tiled light poles dotting the area were uprooted in 2014 to make way for the $16 million capital works project still underway. At the time of removal, the DOT assured Power and the public that these design elements would remain stored in a Queens warehouse and reinstated once the area is ready. Shortly thereafter, the artist reportedly became enraged, and began putting up signs of protest around the neighborhood. He even dismantled some of the Astor Place pieces as a “preemptive strike against the city.”

All along, though, a group of friends and supporters that counts City Lore, the Village Alliance, Bob Holman (Bowery Poetry) and Clayton Patterson in its ranks, together donated time and mental power to ensure that the artistic legacy of Jim Power remains intact at this historic crossroads. Part of that strategy is quelling the concerns of the artist himself (a disabled Vietnam veteran). In particular, he’s not too happy about having – in his own words – “another mosaic artist to repair my work.” And worried that the stored mosaics might get ruined.

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Mosaic Man paid tribute to Bowery Boogie and other local press, March 2012

Said artist tapped to repair those poles in need is Arab-American mosaic specialist Haifa Bint-Kadi, vetted and chosen by City Lore.

In working with the city, his aforementioned allies reportedly secured an agreement that guarantees Power is paid, as well as Bint-Kadi. There is also talk that Power would decorate planters, but one step at a time.

“This work [we’ve done] is for the community, what is left of it,” Clayton Patterson says. “We are working to preserve a little of what used to be here, and Jim’s poles represents community – the Creative Village.”

Technically, this world-renowned art is guerrilla. It wasn’t legal when glued in the first place, and everything about it is city property. So, his supporters are happy the city is playing ball at all…

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