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City Council passes public art legislation, sparked by pink sculpture saga

Jan. 18, 2017 By Hannah Wulkan

The City Council passed a legislation package that overhauls the Percent for Art program, creating more transparency and accountability to the community during the process of commissioning a piece of public art.

The legislation, sponsored by the head of the Cultural Affairs Committee and local Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, increases funds allocated to public art installations, encourages diversity in the artists commissioned for the projects and gives the community greater input in the process. The mayor is expected to sign the bills into law.

“These pieces of legislation will bring more transparency and accountability to the public art process and strengthen the programs that help make our city the cultural capital of the world,” Van Bramer said. “New York City is better with more public art, more ambitious public art, and public art in every neighborhood. That is what this package will accomplish,” he added.

The legislation package contains six separate bills, four of which focus specifically on the Percent for Art program, under which a large pink sculpture was installed on Jackson Avenue earlier this year.

The bills focusing on the Percent for Art program would require that the panel deciding on Percent for Art commissions include representatives from the office of the Borough President, Community Board, and Council Member in whose district the project is located.

It would also require the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) to collect demographic data on the artists receiving commissions to encourage diversity and would require more outreach encouraging artists to apply for the program in the seven most common languages in New York City.

Finally, the legislation raises the cap on each Percent for Art project from $400,000 to $900,000 for projects under a certain threshold, and from $1.5 million to $4 million for projects over that threshold.

The other two bills in the package require reports from the Arts Commission and the Cultural Institutions groups to increase transparency.

The new legislation comes on the heels of controversy surrounding the new Percent for Art installation in Long Island City, a massive pink figure on Jackson Avenue by Brooklyn-based artist Ohad Meromi.

The LIC Post broke the story of the $515,000, 8 ½ foot sculpture in 2014, which came as a shock to many community members after minimal community involvement in the decision process.

A three-person panel that was comprised of a member from Socrates Sculpture Park, Sculpture Center and a local artist selected the commission without input from Community Board 2 or the public.

The sculpture remained a contentious topic in the community up until it was installed late last year and beyond, with Van Bramer receiving calls demanding it be taken down almost immediately.

The new legislation will require more transparency and community involvement in the decision-making process, aiming to avoid similar controversies in the future.

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I’m a fan of public art. This one is meh, but could grow on me. Chicago does it right. Private developers and architects took pride in their work, and the city is very receptive to art in parks. Their buildings and plazas are both magnificent. We build for utility alone. Especially in LIC. Our best public art comes from guerilla artists who create on their own dime. The wall Street bull is the best example. Since those medians are now fair game, it would be cool if artists just started planting down works.


This monstrosity belongs in Socrates Park along with the other ignoble sculptures I usually see there.


Ha ha ha! I have been through that park numerous times and all I think about is what a scam so many artists are. I went to art school and I am a graphic designer who paints and writes and loves to be creative but I also realize that my hobby is not financially feasible and so I have a real job. Something a lot of “artists” need to come to grips with.


you know i always felt the government should stop funding these local arts in ITS ENTIRETY. If people cared so much, let them raise their own funds like the Secret Theatre is doing…but the majority of people probably wouldn’t care about local art, which means if people don’t care, it probably shouldnt be there in the first place. So here’s the solution, let the government fund more important places like PS1….and than let PS1 figure the rest out…galleries like the Dorksy Gallery are one of the most pointless and useless funding out there.


Personally I love this sculpture, and think that the neighborhood needs more public art done in this taste to balance out all the glass towers. Keep Queens weird!


the sculpture isn’t horrible…..the location of it is not fitting.
Neither is the cost of it.

If something more fitting were in place of this i’d be all for having the pink sculpture placed elsewhere

personal opinion


That is Austins slogan. Queens is not weird in a good way. It is weird in a bad, creepy way. Personally, I don’t like this public art and it was very expensive and it was put in a terrible place. Maybe, just maybe, if it were in the right place it would be likable, and if it cost half of what it cost, and the process to choose it was not sketchy.


So the solution is to spend EVEN MORE MONEY on these art projects? For god’s sake, does anyone in this city have an ounce of common sense? The next sculpture will just be another version of the pink thing, but costing close to a million instead of half a million. Great!


I was so happy when Van Bramer asked me to model for this sculpture. I’m really disappointing by the negative reaction as I think it captures my bowling arm really well.


It was OK for Van Bramer to allocate the money before the new rules. He got so many calls against it he had to do something. In NYC it takes either an accident or wasted money like this for things to change to what they should be already. Van Bramer should never be voted to any office ever again.


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