Art Exhibition Helps Enliven Allen Street Pedestrian Malls

Hester Street Collaborative is an organization that believes in improving public spaces in our neighborhood any way it can. Yesterday leaders of the LES non-profit gathered with city officials and four talented artists to unveil “Mall-terations,” a temporary exhibition on the Allen Street pedestrian malls.

Along with a few other organizations, Hester Street led a community visioning process to revitalize 13 blocks of Allen and Pike Streets, two of the least pedestrian-friendly stretches on the Lower East Side.  The art exhibition is an outgrowth of that effort.

The project, created by artists Marcelo Ertorteguy, Mateo Pinto, Carolina Cisneros and Sara Valente consists of five benches that turn on wheels like compasses, neighborhood maps and historical timelines.  The idea was to celebrate the rich immigrant history of the LES, encompassing multiple decades and ethnicities. The exhibition was supported by the NYC Department of Transportation’s Urban Arts Program.  Dozens of volunteers helped paint the malls over the summer.

Artists (l-R) Marcelo Ertorteguy, Mateo Pinto, Carolina Cisneros and Sara Valente, with Hester Street's Dylan House (in green sweater).

Four of the 13 streets slated for landscaping and beautification have been transformed. But since there’s no money to finish the job, it could be a long time before these blocks become more inviting.  The Parks Department is apparently hoping an elected official will be able to secure federal funding. They estimate each block will cost about $1 million.

In the meantime, though, Hester Street Collaborative is doing its part to bring a little life to these neglected streets.