Doyers Street, a historically notorious block in Chinatown, is getting quite a colorful — and somewhat controversial — makeover.
Artist Chen Dongfan has been painting technicolor shapes and lines on the 200-foot stretch once known to be riddled with opium dens, brothels, and violence. But his vibrant art project was met with controversy when local business owners learned the area was scheduled to be closed off to vehicles around the clock until its completion... which isn't expected for weeks.
Bowery Boogie reported earlier this week that twelve Chinatown businesses had signed a petition against the 24-hour closure of the street, as garbage trucks allegedly couldn't pick up the trash from the street. Businesses who signed the petition include dim sum and dumpling dynasty Nom Wah Tea Parlor.
We reached out to the Deptartment of Transportation on Monday, and a rep for the agency, Scott Gastel, told Gothamist this morning that they have now changed the plan: "The roadway was opened [Monday] evening around 9 p.m., which moved up the date from July 28th. It was previously going to be closed 24/7 until then." The stretch will now be closed daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Gastel says they "will continue to monitor."
(Madeleine Crenshaw / Gothamist)
But what about that mural?
Inna Xu, the artist's wife and business partner, said Dongfan is on his fourth day of painting. The work is titled “The Song of Dragons and Flowers."
"There's been a few negative comments, but most people stop and say how much they love it," said Xu, who has been out on Doyers Street chatting with curious locals and snapping photos. This was not long after someone allegedly dumped oil on the 4,851 square-foot mural.
Dongfan at work. (Madeleine Crenshaw/Gothamist)
Dongfan said the piece is meant to resemble a 4,800 square foot flying dragon. He discloses more in this artist's statement:
"Chinatown's history is full of hardship, but also full of love. Doyers Street is located in Chinatown, intersecting with Pell Street at its very end, as if a flying dragon is winding its way up and resting at the intersection of two streets. I was inspired by the immigrant experience and how they perceive this neighborhood as home. Thus, I believe that dragon, both from its visual form and the cultural meaning, can best represent the area. Instead of depicting the form of the dragon on the street, I choose to capture the soul and spirit of this mythical animal, as a visual embodiment of the lasting Chinese cultural heritage. "
Dongfan's work is in partnership with Art Bridge and part of the NYC Department of Transportation's Doyers Street Seasonal Street Public Art program, as well as the Chinatown Partnership's pedestrian plaza project. "The Song of Dragon and Flowers" is set to be completed around July 27th. The area will become a pedestrian plaza starting August 1st from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and through November.
In the meantime, here's a little history on Doyers Street, which was infamously known as the "Bloody Angle" in the early 20th century.