WASHINGTON HEIGHTS, Manhattan (PIX11) — Community members who’ve long advocated for a clean-up of trash and drug needles in a subway tunnel were dismayed to discover the graffiti-covered walls were painted over during the weekend.
The walls of the approximately 900-foot-long tunnel at the 191st Street station were painted white. Councilmember Carmen De La Rosa was informed of the Department of Transportation’s “operation to fully clean and sanitize” the tunnel on Saturday morning. She noted she had fought for a clean and safe tunnel but said this wasn’t what she’d wanted.
“[We] have never advocated for the soul of the tunnel to be removed in the erasure of the local art that was emblematic of the tunnel,” she said. “The continual lack of transparency from city agencies has long damaged our community’s trust; we are angered and disappointed by the lack of notification and care employed by the Department of Transportation in painting the tunnel without community engagement or planning.”
“Painting over 191st tunnel uptown feels a lot like when they demolished and painted over 5 Pointz in Queens. Tragic,” one person tweeted.
Many others on Twitter said they were upset by the loss of the art. One user said it felt like the change was “gentrifying uptown and trying to erase its culture.”
A spokesperson for the DOT told PIX11 that the tunnel will be repainted with new art.
“DOT recently cleaned the 191st Street tunnel and removed graffiti. We value the importance of public art and this cleaning is the first step toward creating a new art project for the tunnel. We look forward to working closely with the community and local elected officials on a project that celebrates the culture and diversity that makes New York so special,” DOT spokesperson Vincent Barone said in a statement.