The Best Construction Fence Ever In New York City

For the past week, I’ve been scouting dozens of construction sites around Brooklyn and Queens, which means I’ve been running into the same boring green fencing pretty much everywhere (specifically, “hunter green,” as per city requirements).

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As I was driving around, I was suddenly reminded of the best construction fencing I think I’ve ever seen in New York. It was a number of years ago, and I even took pictures to run on Scouting NY, but for some odd reason, never got around to it.

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This was an art installation by Maya Barkai at 99 Church Street, depicting 99 different walk signs from around the globe.

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Seriously, how great is this? There’s something so fascinating about how the piece depicts a common icon shared by cultures worldwide, and at the same time highlights how varied and unique each is:

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In particular, I love when additional objects make the sign, such as the horse in London…

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…or a bicycle in Salzburg. I also love how she kept the specific overlay pattern and lighting scheme for each:

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One recurring thought I had every time I’d walk past the site: can you tell the pace of a city by its walk sign? What would happen if you put them in order on a scale ranging from laid back to frenetic purely by depiction? Would your arrangement match your assessment of the cities?

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Another thought: so so many walking men…

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…so, so few walking women (there were a couple).

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I began to look forward to studying the Walking Men every time I’d pass through lower Manhattan. Sadly, the fence was removed sometime last year, only to be replaced by the same boring, ubiquitous green fence.

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I hate to run pictures of something so old, but it suddenly occurred to me that with all the construction going on today, New York is essentially filled with blank canvases. There’s clearly no shortage of artists looking to express their work. Can’t someone get on this to flood the city with more work like Maya’s?

I mean, is POST NO BILLS really the best we can do?

-SCOUT

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10 comments

  1. I wish I’d had a chance to see the walk signs in person! Have you seen where Photoville has turned the construction fences around Brooklyn Bridge park into a temporary art gallery? Photoville.com

  2. Hi Nick, I wrote a comment before, but I think the spam filter doesn’t like links.
    I live in Montevideo (Uruguay). In the las couple of years a collective called Graffiteo has been decorating construction fences with some truly amazing results.
    Google “Colectivo Graffiteo” to see some examples of their work.

  3. The NYC Dept of Buildings mandates the green fencing. It used to be blue, but was changed about two years ago. Sites are actually prohibited from putting any signage other than the single project sign on each side of the site. So whenever you see advertising for the apartments in the new building, those signs are almost always illegal. The exception is signage for adjacent stores, etc that have their usual signage covered by the sidewalk sheds. The sheds are required to extend 20′ past the property line.

  4. Although I appreciate the quiantness, I don’t understand why “POST NO BILLS” is still used. Wouldn’t “DON’T POST BILLS” be clearer in modern usage?

  5. I remember that installation! I loved it too. I just read an article in the NYTimes yesterday titled “10 Murals in Brooklyn to Spruce Up Construction Site” about ten 10′ x 40′ murals that will be painted on August 15th at an Atlantic Yards-related site. (I would like to the article, but it seems other commenters are saying they’ve had trouble leaving comments with links. Google the title!

  6. I remember this to. Never seen it in person but there was some hassle here that our sign was also visible on the walls. One of the fewer girl ones. Sofie, Amersfoort (Netherlands). It was all over the local news here šŸ™‚

    https://lprinsblog.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/sofieny.jpg

  7. Hi Scout, this installation made it onto the cover of Lee Ranaldos (of Sonic Youth fame) solo album Between the Times and the Tides in 2012!
    It’s funny that a non-New Yorker is mentioning this. šŸ˜‰

  8. Scout.

    I miss the signs too a huge break from the mundande

  9. What a great project!

    The city of Copenhagen is currently also full of green fences (due to the construction of a new metro line).

    However, the metro company has decided to treat the fences as blank canvasses and invite artists and other creatives to apply to decorate a piece of the fence – essentially giving the city sooo much art for everyone to enjoy!

    Seems obvious for NYC to do the same? šŸ™‚

    You can find examples on Facebook (look for the page “Byens Hegn – Cool construction”)

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