Surprise graffiti cleanup at 191st Street subway tunnel causing controversy

ByKemberly Richardson and Eyewitness News WABC logo
Monday, January 23, 2023
Surprise cleanup at 191st Street subway tunnel causing controversy
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The tunnel at the 191st Street subway station in Washington Heights is about to get yet another new look. Kemberly Richardson has the story.

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS, Manhattan (WABC) -- It has changed more than a supermodel on a runway, and now the tunnel at the 191st Street subway station in Washington Heights is about to get yet another new look.

"We are planning to look for potential artists that will design the 191st Street Tunnel. This is a priority for me because I understand the symbolic meaning behind this cultural mural," said NYC DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez.

The announcement comes days after days of uncertainty and angst among many who walk through every day.

"It looked bland once they painted it like two days ago - I thought they were trying to destroy the art," said Washington Heights resident Mario Wright.

It all started in 2015 when the city commissioned artists to paint a mural that was supposed to be there for 11 months.

City Councilmember Carmen De La Rosa tells Eyewitness News last year she asked several city agencies to clean up the area which was covered with garbage and people sleeping day and night. She says that painting the walls was not part of the plan.

"It took us by surprise and we were disappointed by the fact the community had no notification when it came to the painting of the tunnel," De La Rosa said.

However, just days later - a ton of graffiti is back.

"If you want graffiti in here, let's coordinate with the city and bring in graffiti that is pleasant to look at," said Washington Heights resident Jerry Katz.

Officials say once the new art is in place, they hope to keep things looking picture-perfect by adding more police and cameras in the tunnel.

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