Located on Lenox Avenue between 146th and 147th Streets in Harlem
Located on Lenox Avenue between 146th and 147th Streets in Harlem

Harlem’s Mother Clara Hale Bus Depot has come a long way since 1890, when it was a two-story trolley barn. Modified as a bus depot in 1939, renovated in 1990 and was named in honor of Mother Clara Hale in 1993.  Even with the 1990 renovation, the facility wasn’t accommodating the needs of the MTA or the community, with buses forced to idle on Lenox Avenue for lack of room, and so many buses on 147th Street that often the cars couldn’t get by. The building was demolished in its entirety to make way for a more modern facility.

The $262 million project was a joint effort of the MTA and surrounding community, addressing not only the needs of the MTA but also the concerns of the people who live in the area.  MTA Arts & Design joined in the effort, choosing artist Shinque Smith to do a large-scale mosaic piece titled “Mother Hale’s Garden” for the facade facing Lenox Avenue.  There was a concentrated effort to employ locals, from the guard service to engineering and cleanup.

In keeping with the community effort, Ms. Smith collected clothing, fabric and other items from around the community to incorporate into her original thought process and drawings.  She worked with first-grade students from PS242 to draw the flowers that would become the glass artwork for the north and south windows.  But it was a child’s drawing of a bus stop found near Mother Hale that was the inspiration for her palette.  “We are all connected by childhood dreams and memories threaded through clothing and the things we consume and discard.”

Ms. Smith, who resides in Hudson, New York, is known for creating artwork based on a personal narrative while exploring the graffiti culture.  Totaling approximately 6,672 square feet, Smith’s work is a variety of artistic media including collage, painting and sculpture.  She worked with the company Mosaika Art & Design to turn her artwork into mosaic.  The glass was fabricated by Peter Studios.

The mosaic spans approximately 6,672 square feet
The mosaic by artist Shinique Smith spans approximately 6,672 square feet

The new facility is a welcome improvement for neighbors who have lived with the overflow of buses for years.  The new three-story facility is a certified green building that can hold 120 buses from four Manhattan lines.  By January 2015, it is expected they will handle 30 more. The building has LEED certification, a green roof that uses plants to cool the facility, absorbs CO2 from the air and reduces storm-water runoff.  It has thermal insulation to save energy and reduce emissions, a solar wall that serves as a passive heating device and rainwater collection for water treatment to wash the buses.  It has cost effective and energy efficient Heat Recovery Units on the roof for a heat exchanger, and a high efficiency white roof that will prevent heat gain in warmer weather without reflecting light onto nearby buildings or cause glare.

After eight years of meetings and hard work, the ribbon cutting ceremony was held on Thursday, November 20th – with an opening day on Sunday, November 23rd. The MTA is proud to say that this is the most environmentally friendly facility they have ever built and proud of the close association and input from the community.

The facility was named for Mother Clara Hale in 1993
The facility was named for Mother Clara Hale in 1993

The Mother Clara Hale Bus Depot is located at 721 Lenox Avenue between 146th and 147th Streets.

Contact the Author: AFineLyne