Jim Power’s iconic lampposts have decorated the streets of the East Village for years. In 2013, we set out to photograph every one, and in the process, we learned about the neighborhood’s eclectic history told through colorful mosaic tiles and odd bits-and-pieces, including tiny mirrors, coins, fragments of dishes and even small sculptures. Although nearly 70 mosaic poles once existed in the East Village, many of them were targeted and removed by the Anti-Graffiti Task Force during Rudolph Giuliani’s term. In 2004, however, Mayor Bloomberg officially thanked Power for “beautifying the city with distinctive, artful mosaics,” giving him permission to continue his work on public property in a 2004 proclamation.
The Astor Cube being reinstalled
In more recent years, plans for the major Astor Place redesign, a two-year revitalization effort, which included the restoration of Tony Rosenthal’s Alamo sculpture, called for the permanent removal of Jim Power’s mosaics. Power, who started creating the pieces in the 1980s to introduce public art into the neighborhood, began destroying his work in protest. The Village Alliance BID then intervened, assembling community partners to save the poles and return them to the site after restoration.
The final five of seven posts, which were removed in October 2014 to make way for construction, were recently reinstalled in the newly renovated plaza (one is still unfinished due to a lack of funds). In light of the occasion, the Village Alliance is hosting a dedication ceremony taking place today, December 1st, beginning at 4:30 p.m.
According to DNAinfo New York, the Village Alliance hopes to use the opportunity to raise additional money to pay for the labor that will allow Power to continue his work. Thus far, the organization, along with the help of advocacy groups and private individuals, have managed to fund the restoration of the light poles by raising $22,000. To complete the final stages of the project, a crowd-funding campaign has also been initiated. Of its $20,000 goal, $5,100 has already been raised.
During the dedication ceremony, Jim Power will lead a tour of the restored Mosaic Poles, explaining the stories behind each creation. Included in the collection of poles are two that celebrate the NYPD and FDNY, acting as a nod to the officers and first responders who have tirelessly served the city over the years.
Next, check out Photographing Every One of Jim Power’s Mosaics on St. Mark’s Place and see the Astor Cube at the Newly Renovated Astor Place.