Artist fills potholes in Manhattan, Brooklyn with ‘Vermin of New York’-themed mosaics

A Chicago artist installed mosaics in NYC potholes. (Jim Bachor)

NEW YORK — An artist filled potholes in Manhattan and Brooklyn with Big Apple-themed mosaics, but city transportation officials believe his artwork poses a safety hazard.

Jim Bachor, a Chicago artist, installed tiled images in five potholes during a July trip to the city. His guerilla series, Vermin of New York, is meant to be fun. Not everyone sees it that way.

“Aside from putting himself in harm’s way in the middle of roadways, the artist’s adding of artwork in the street is a danger to all road users, which poses safety hazards should drivers become distracted by the art,” a Department of Transportation spokesperson said.

Bachor, who’s installed nearly 70 mosaics in potholes since 2013, said his repairs are a safe and “painfully durable art form.” The first mosaic he placed in a stubborn pothole in front of his own home lasted more than two years. It was there until his street was repaved.

He was disappointed to learn New York anticipates paving over the five mosaics he installed here.

“The potholes are repaired,” he said. “Just to put more material on top of it just seems a little mean spirited.”

Each mosaic creation and installation requires nearly a full day’s work, he said. Bachor spends 8 to 10 hours making the mosaic in a studio. It takes him about two hours to fill the pothole with concrete and install the art. He sets up traffic cones and a tarp, then comes back around eight hours later to do a final cleaning of the mosaic.

“That’s as good as it’s ever going to look,” he said.

His five in the city filled holes he found by crowdsourcing and hiring a New Yorker to scout workable potholes.

“I needed to find enough good ones because most of them don’t work for what I do,” he said.

He also needs time to work on his commissioned projects, but the public works exposes his art to more people and gives him a chance to do different sorts of mosaics.

“I try to do subject matter that is unexpected, unusual,” he said. “I try to keep them guessing.”

In New York’s case, that meant mosaics of a pigeon, a rat, a cockroach, President Donald Trump and a bouquet of flowers

“It’s taking something you might see in the street anyway and rendering it in a beautiful manner,” Bachor said. “New York has so much going for it, why not just do stuff that people complain about?”