Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama is known for making work filled with circular motifs, and her upcoming site-specific installation titled Narcissus Garden is no exception. The installation of silver spheres will be on view from July 1- September 3 at Fort Tilden, a former United States Army base on the coast in Queens. The exhibition is presented by MoMA PS1 as the third iteration of Rockaway!, an art festival that commemorates the Rockaway Peninsula’s ongoing recovery from Hurricane Sandy. First presented in 1966 at the 33rd Venice Biennale, Narcissus Garden is comprised of 1,500 spheres made of mirrored stainless steel. The artistic intervention will transform the interior of the former coastal artillery installation with mirrored surfaces. The region’s military past and the building’s post-Hurricane Sandy state will be highlighted in the reflections of the sculpture. During the first presentation of Narcissus Garden in 1966, Kusama, dressed in a gold kimono, threw the spheres around and attempted to sell them to passerby on the lawn outside the Italian Pavilion. The performance was interpreted as “self-promotion and a critique on the commercialization of contemporary art,” according to a statement from the MoMA PS1. The art piece played an important role in marking Kusama’s career as a performance artist in the sixties. Iterations of Narcissus Garden have since been presented in New York City parks and different venues worldwide. The first iteration of Rockaway! in 2014 featured Patti Smith, Adrián Villar Rojas and Janet Cardiff, while the second iteration in 2016 featured Katharina Grosse. The series is co-organized by Rockaway Artists Alliance, a local non-profit art organization, and National Park Service. For details please check out this link.
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In a nearly unanimous vote, on July 10th the City Planning Commission approved the rezoning and revitalization plan for Downtown Far Rockaway in Queens, as first reported by CityLand. The plan aims to re-establish Downtown Far Rockaway as the peninsula’s commercial and transportation hub through new zoning that encourages mixed-use development, new public spaces, improved pedestrian walkways, and better access to community services. It's also one of several neighborhood rezonings in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s push to build more affordable housing. Downtown Far Rockaway is the historic commercial core of the peninsula: located near Rockaway Beach and Jamaica Bay, it's serviced by stops on the A train as well as the LIRR. The area has not been rezoned since the 1961 Zoning Resolution that subsequently prevented residential developments in the commercial and manufacturing zones that feature extensively in the area. Downtown Far Rockaway also has few local employment opportunities, little open space, and poor pedestrian access. Rezoning, which is the plan’s backbone, would foster new residential and mixed-use developments, especially on the area's larger streets. One part of Far Rockaway would also be designated an Urban Renewal Area, which would enable the City to purchase and transfer properties to developers. The “roadmap for action” plan also aims to incorporate the current community by improving existing commercial spaces and local businesses as well as increasing accessibility to job training, education, and community services. According to CityLand, the city is already investing $100 million in the area, with improvements including "streetscape reconstruction, sewer upgrades, park improvements, storefront improvement, and library upgrades." The plan was passed with conditions that include community-based project labor, a new school and park, and limits on up-zoning. Additionally, a 22-block area (bounded by Caffrey Avenue, Redfern Avenue, Nameoke Avenue, Beach 22nd Street, and Gateway Boulevard) would be designated for Mandatory Inclusionary Housing. The final vote will be made by Major de Blasio, who has already indicated his support of local neighborhood rezoning and revitalization plans.
With summer weather quickly approaching, it's the perfect time to kick back and dream about a sweet bungalow by the beach... in Queens. Endangered bungalows throughout New York City have been on the radar for some time now, but documentary filmmaker Jennifer Callahan has focused on the fight to preserve the few bungalows left on the Rockaway Peninsula in her film Bungalows of the Rockaways, which will be screened tonight at Tenement Talks at the Tenement Museum. The filmmaker got Estelle Parsons to do the voice over and Columbia's Andrew Dolkart to comment on historic value. Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden talks about the zoning surrounding the enclaves. Even Council Speaker Christine Quinn's dad, 83-year-old Lawrence Quinn, weighs in with his memories of the bungalow. But for the most part, the residents of Rockaway do most of the heavy lifting. The film traces the history of the bungalows from their 17th century origins in Bengal, India, on though to their arrival in England, then New England, and eventually on to their landing in NYC and in Rockaway, where they replaced tent communities of the working class. Callahan doesn't shy away from the sordid bits of Rockaway history, such as segregation. The communities were primarily divided between African Americans, Jews, and Irish, with the blacks responsible for getting the bungalows cleaned and ready for when the whites showed up for summer vacation. Later, when Robert Moses arrived on the scene, his slum clearance displaced scores of African Americans. Many crowded into the bungalows under appalling conditions. There's no need for a spoiler alert in revealing the ending. Suffice it to say, though the Planning Commission and Parks have stepped up efforts to retain the neighborhood's character, the area has yet to be landmarked and without a historic designation, the bungalows are not protected.