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P.S.1 entrance plan draws CB 2 anger

It appears the wall between Long Island City’s P.S. 1 and Community Board 2 will not be crumbling any time soon.

Members of the board were furious with the art museum after it presented plans to improve its entrance along Jackson Avenue, which included installing computer-controlled LED lights around its perimeter, but left virtually untouched the stark, 16-foot-high concrete wall that has galled CB 2 for years.

“The prison on Van Dam Street has a better feel than this concrete wall,” CB 2 Chairman Joseph Conley said. “The amount of input that was put into this was zero from the community.”

The $186,000 project will begin in September, said Antoine Guerrero, director of operations and exhibitions for P.S. 1.

“This is what we call the first step of addressing the situation,” Guerrero said, noting budget cuts limited what they could accomplish. “We are here to set up a platform for different artists to express themselves with light.”

The unadorned concrete wall was erected in 1997 to help enclose a courtyard that was to be used for outdoor art exhibitions. CB 2 members have long felt the wall presented an inhospitable face to Long Island City residents.

“It seems they want to insulate themselves,” Conley said.

Guerrero said the museum had looked into CB 2’s suggestions to add planters or create a hanging garden on the wall. But the wall’s narrow width at top and the high cost of maintaining plants prevented the museum from adopting those proposals, he said.

Peter Sprung, a city Department of Design and Construction official who is consulting with P.S. 1 on the project, said the artist selected to program the first lighting patterns has done similar work at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

“We feel this solution addresses that in the sense that it does not call attention to the wall,” Sprung said. “It’s not something we want to light up, so this is the economical solution.”

City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), who chairs the Council Cultural Affairs Committee but also served on CB 2 for several years, appeared to be favoring the community board in the dispute.

“There are long-term historical issues with the exterior wall and the truth is that P.S. 1 could have been more responsive, could have been more sensitive to the concerns of the community in the past,” he said, noting the wall needs to be made more inviting. “They have got to come up with a way to do that.”

At this stage in the museum’s plan, Conley said, there was little the community board could do besides contact the mayor’s office to complain.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jewalsh@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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