Residents of Washington Heights took up arms after the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) painted over murals and graffiti that decorated the 191st Street subway tunnel.
As reported by ABC7, it was done in an attempt to fix the pedestrian crossing. Community members and their city representative complained about the condition of the tunnel, which was poorly lit and has begun to attract drug addicts and homeless people seeking asylum.
However, the subway tunnel paints were a source of pride for the residents of the area.
According to Washington Heights resident Luiggi Gomez, what happened there was just a slap in the face of the community. He also added that they erased history.
The murals and graffiti were part of a DOT-sponsored beautification project in 2015. As part of this project, five local artists decorated the 300-foot-long tunnel with geometric shapes, lush jungle scenes and statements, including the work of New York graffiti legend Fernando “Cope2” Carlo Jr. Art Is Life, which encouraged walkers to “Follow your dreams.”
While the original murals were quickly covered in contributions from local graffiti artists, the tunnel and the art that decorated it quickly became a cultural landmark and was featured in the Lin Manuel Miranda film In the Heights.
Niria E. Leiva-Gutierrez, executive director of the Manhattan North Arts Alliance, which co-sponsored the 2015 project with DOT, issued a joint statement with New York City Council member Carmen De La Rosa condemning DOT’s lack of transparency and engagement in society. during the renovation project.
DOT quickly responded with a statement of its own, reassuring the community that they appreciate the importance of public art and will soon issue a request for proposals that will involve local graffiti artists, kickstarting a process that will transform the 191st Street Tunnel.
In addition to DOT’s planned transformation of the tunnel, DOT Commissioner Idanis Rodriguez told New York’s NBC4 that the city has allocated $25 million to invest in the tunnel’s infrastructure over the next two years.