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Artist Hank Willis Thomas’ “Unity” Takes Its Place In Downtown Brooklyn

Commissioned through the City’s Percent for Art program as part of a broader revitalization of the Tillary Street corridor

DDC: Shoshana Khan,

(Brooklyn, NY - November 12, 2019) The NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC) and NYC Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) today announced the installation of “Unity,” a new, monumental public artwork that was commissioned as part of the ongoing reconstruction of Tillary Street in downtown Brooklyn. Installed on Saturday, November 9, on the western median of the Tillary Street and Adams Street intersection, the piece welcomes travelers from the Brooklyn Bridge and creates a new landmark at this high-profile location.


"Unity" points skyward in downtown Brooklyn

The sculpture was commissioned under the City’s Percent for Art program, and is part of the comprehensive reconstruction of the Tillary Street area that DDC is managing for the NYC Department of Transportation. The $46.5 million, two-phase effort will simplify street geometry, create substantial protected space for pedestrians and bicyclists by widening sidewalks, install planted medians throughout the area and create a new public plaza at the intersection of Tillary Street, Clinton Street and Cadman Plaza West. There will also be upgraded water mains, traffic signals, street lighting, hydrants, manholes and wayfinding signs throughout the project area.

This large-scale sculpture of a bronze arm communicates a myriad of ideas about individual and collective identity, ambition and perseverance. The piece measures 22.5 feet in height, emerges from the ground and points towards the sky, echoing the Statue of Liberty’s iconic gesture.


A crane lowers “Unity” into place on Tillary Street in Brooklyn

“Many DDC projects include a ‘Percent for Art’ component as a way to beautify our urban environment,” said DDC Commissioner Lorraine Grillo. “The Tillary Street reconstruction projects will also calm traffic and add pedestrian space, making the area safer and more inviting to pedestrians and keeping with Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero goals.”

“Works of public art shape and define open spaces across New York City,” said Kendal Henry, Director of the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs’ Percent for Art program. “With ‘Unity,’ Hank Willis Thomas captures a huge range of meaning with a simple form, conveying a sense of uplift, hope, and a little bit of Brooklyn attitude at this prominent site. We are thrilled to join our partners at DDC and DOT to install this instantly iconic work of public art.”

“This sculpture is an homage to and celebration of the unique and multi-faceted character of the borough of Brooklyn,” said artist Hank Willis Thomas. “The spirit of Brooklyn has always been about upward mobility and connection to roots. The large-scale sculpture of a bronze arm pointing toward the sky is intended to convey to a wide audience a myriad of ideas about individual and collective identity, ambition, and perseverance.”

“Brooklyn is a borough of history, character and distinction,” said City Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo. “With over 2 million people shaping the culture and vibrancy of our great borough, I am so delighted that Hank Willis Thomas’s ‘Unity’ sculpture lives in Downtown Brooklyn, to remind us of the importance of togetherness, persistence and possibility. As Brooklynites, I encourage us to view this new landmark as a renewal of that Brooklyn pride which we carry daily. Let it also call us to walk the path collectively toward success, growth, and enhanced unity.”

The artist worked closely with UAP Polich Tallix, located in Rock Tavern, New York throughout the fabrication of “Unity.” The foundry was provided with a 3D file of the artwork, which was then milled into 10-pound foam patterns. UAP Polich Tallix then used multiple fine art bronze casting processes to create the sculpture, which subsequently received a patina finish and was transported from their facilities directly to the installation site. The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership will be responsible for ongoing maintenance of the work.

"It's wonderful to have permanent public art of this caliber, by a Brooklyn-based artist, at a location where so many make their entrance to the borough," said Downtown Brooklyn Partnership President Regina Myer. "Hank Willis Thomas' monumental Unity will serve as a memorable landmark, and as a symbol of Brooklyn's triumphant spirit. The City's ongoing investment into the area's public art is recognition of Downtown Brooklyn's transformation into a thriving destination, and we are thankful to DCLA, DDC, and DOT, for their work and commitment to the project."


About the NYC Department of Design and Construction

The Department of Design and Construction is the City’s primary capital construction project manager. In supporting Mayor de Blasio’s long-term vision of growth, sustainability, resiliency, equity and healthy living, DDC provides communities with new or renovated public buildings such as such as firehouses, libraries, police precincts, and new or upgraded roads, sewers and water mains in all five boroughs. To manage this $14 billion portfolio, DDC partners with other City agencies, architects and consultants, whose experience bring efficient, innovative and environmentally-conscious design and construction strategies to City projects. For more information, please visit