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PR- 323-08
August 20, 2008


City Year and Groundswell Community Mural Project Volunteers Complete Mural Depicting Community Heroes

Mural Project Part of the Department of Transportation's Temporary Art Program

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Community Affairs Unit Commissioner Nazli Parvizi today unveiled a community mural at a newly refurbished pedestrian subway tunnel at 190th Street in Washington Heights, and cut the ribbon on a recently completed community mural located at the entrance of the 900-foot long tunnel. As part of the revitalization efforts, City agencies power-washed the tunnel and cleaned its drains while also working with a community group to create a 1,150 square foot mural at the entrance of the tunnel, which will be on view through July 2009. The mural design, which was inspired by a poem written by one of the young participants, depicts community heroes and themes of significant relevance to the Washington Heights and Inwood neighborhoods. The Mayor and Commissioner Parvizi were joined by Department of Transportation Assistant Commissioner Urban Design and Art, Wendy Feuer, Councilmember Robert Jackson, State Senator Eric Schneiderman, Executive Director of Groundswell Community Mural Project, Amy Sananman and Executive Director of City Year New York, Itai Dinour.

"This is a wonderful example of how community members, City government and the nonprofit sector can come together to help beautify a neighborhood and make New York City a better place to live," said Mayor Bloomberg. "Public Art has a way of transforming the landscape, creating dialogue and bringing people together and this mural has turned an underground tunnel into a beautiful work of art that the community can be proud of."

"We are thrilled to have partnered with various City agencies, local community groups, Groundswell and City Year to bring life to the tunnel," said Commissioner Parvizi. "This project does more than just beautify the neighborhood - it showcases the rich and diverse history of Washington Heights and provides inspiration for neighbors, young and old.

The mural project is also part of the DOT's ArtScapes, a public art program designed to enliven the urban landscape with temporary art. Unveiled earlier this year, DOT's Temporary Art Program creates art installations for City spaces that are in the need of aesthetic enhancement.  The program is also designed to promote community interaction by working with local artists in partnership with business improvement districts and local community organizations.

"This mural transforms a walk-through corridor into a bright community showcase," said DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. "Working with communities, the DOT's Public Art program is using color and design to create attractive spaces like this in neighborhoods across the city."

"I want to thank the Mayor for having the leadership and vision to bring together the necessary parties to make this project a reality," said State Senator Eric Schneiderman.  "Through the painting of this mural, we have collectively transformed a tunnel that was once in disrepair into a passageway of hope and inspiration.   I am proud to have been able to support this project and to be part of an initiative that has highlighted the very best elements of this community." 

"The condition of the subway tunnel has been a long standing problem in this community," said Councilmember Robert Jackson. "I am happy to have partnered with the City to make needed improvements and help create this wonderful work of art."

The mural, titled "New York is a Rollercoaster," was created by Brooklyn artist, Belle Benfield, who collaborated with young people from the City's Summer Youth Employment Program to come up with the design and paint the mural. Groundswell Community Mural Project, a nonprofit organization that creates community murals around the City, coordinated the project and City Year New York, a national service organization, recruited volunteers from the private sector to prime the tunnel and help paint the mural.  The Washington Heights- Inwood YM&YWHA provided space for the participants to work on the design and connected them to local residents and historians.

"This is one of six projects Groundswell ran this summer as a part of our Summer Leadership Institute (SLI)," said Amy Sanaman, Executive Director for Groundswell Community Mural Project. "Through SLI, Groundswell employs 85 teens from across the city to create public art and use their creative skills to visually transform their communities. Thanks to this partnership with the Mayor's Office, DOT, the Y, local poets and artists and other CBOS, the young people of Washington Heights have been able to play a vital role in improving and beautifying the community for all of its residents."

"City Year's corps of young leaders are proud to partner with public and private partners, including Credit Suisse, to mobilize New Yorkers to beautify our city," said Itai Dinour, Executive Director, of City Year New York. "It is days like today that demonstrate the great civic spirit that unites New Yorkers of all backgrounds in service."


Stu Loeser / Evelyn Erskine   (212) 788-2958

Teresa Gonzalez   (Community Affairs Unit)
(212) 788-7406

Seth Solomonow   (Transportation)
(212) 442-7033

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