UPPER EAST SIDE, Manhattan (PIX11) — Upper East Side residents are fed up with a neighborhood construction project.
The project has sat uncompleted for seven years now, an eyesore that stretches the length of the street. Now, city leaders have enlisted the help of a group of fifth graders from a nearby elementary school to beautify it.
“There’s a blighted construction fence, it’s been up for years we received so many complaints from the community about it,” said City Council member Julie Menin. “Now when you walk by, you see these phenomenal pieces of art.”
Menin developed the art concept and partnered with the city’s Department of Design and Construction (DDC).
“To have the students involved is just so important because they are taking ownership of the community, they are making the community a better place by beautifying it,” said Menin.
The stretch is between 61st and 63rd streets along York Avenue. On Monday afternoon, they unveiled the public art project that now surrounds the construction site. Sixty individual pieces of art were printed onto a new barrier to improve the aesthetics. The theme: “What New York City means to you.”
“I’d pass this and I’m like oh my god this is just a lot of junk I don’t want to look at this,” said 10-year-old Claudia Saez, whose art is displayed. “I wanted people to know how I felt about New York and how I thought it would look from different perspectives.”
Residents of the neighborhood have been dealing with underground work aimed at improving infrastructure, but officials from the city department that oversees the project say they have had to wait on other work to get done before they can start what they are responsible for.
Thomas Foley is the commissioner of the DDC. “It’s taken so long because there are so much private utility interferences underneath the ground here. There are years of work by Con Edison and others upgrading, removing and replacing steam mains and gas lines,” said Foley. “Our work here hasn’t even started yet, but when it does, our work will be done in 18 months, and we’re hoping within the next couple of months we’ll be able to start the city work.”
Until then, it will be a little less of an eyesore, all thanks to the kids. They drew everything from high rises to landmarks like the Statue of Liberty to the Mets emblem to even a donut.
“I drew some pictures on the wall that represents some things in my house, and I wrote ‘love to New York,’” said 11-year-old Carolina Manuel Corral.
It did cost the city several thousand dollars to have the artwork printed on the tarp that now surrounds the fence, but city leaders say the reaction of the students and the confidence booster are priceless.
“When I went to the school and told them what architects and engineers do, I think that really resonated with students and hopefully the takeaway is besides the beautiful art, we’ll have future engineers and architects for the city of New York,” said Foley.