WASHINGTON HEIGHTS, Manhattan (PIX11) — Some graffiti and street art has already returned to the tunnel leading to a Washington Heights subway entrance that was painted by city crews this weekend.
Community members who’ve long advocated for a clean-up of trash and drug needles in a subway tunnel at 191st Street were dismayed to discover the graffiti-covered walls were painted over on Saturday.
A spokesperson for the Department of Transportation 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.
The walls of the approximately 900-foot-long tunnel at the 191st Street station were painted white during the weekend cleanup. 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.”
Community leaders have been working with the city to address concerns in the area and the tunnel including drainage, sanitation and safety.