On Tuesday, the Astor Place Cube that sits and spins and shades skate punks, mysteriously disappeared. One day it was there, and the next, Tony Rosenthal’s “The Alamo,” made in 1966, was gone—all 2,500 pounds of it.
Was Brooke Astor bored? Did the sculpture’s spinning attract derelict dervishes? Did its matte black rigidity clash with Gwathmey Siegel’s sparkling glass curtain and undulating curves?
A few reactions—and a revelation:
Tobias Fields, a local yoga teacher, was visibly moved by the cube’s absence. “Moving art is a positive thing for the city. ‘Moving’ in the sense that it took two people to turn the cube on its axis. Not moving it in the ‘taking it away’ sense.”
Conspiracy theory seemed to prevail among a small group gathered close to the abandoned bicycles.
“Look, my friend once wrote “NO WAR” on the cube, and it was huge, and they just painted right over it, so come on, why would they need to take it away to ‘fix’ it? Ooh, I’m going to make a documentary about this for my class,” said NYU student Sarah Hoit.
“You know, when they ripped the band shell out of Tompkins Square Park they claimed they were ‘just cleaning it,’ too” said Eddie C., an East Village resident, musician, and sound man. “In 20 years, the cube hasn’t been moved once. Why now? Because of these guys!” and he gestured toward the Sculpture for Living. “I didn’t know it would happen before the building was even done! I figured they’d at least wait until they moved in to start a petition or something.”
Another take: “Cleaning? No. I believe someone stole it. Well, a bunch of people, since it was heavy. It’s sad. Someone should call the Ghostbusters,” offered local resident Domingo Milella who brought his companion, Giorgia Gambone, a tourist from Florence, Italy to see the empty spot. “I’ve never seen it, but I’m sad too, “she added. “We rushed here. It’s a shock.”
Jerry Delakas presides over Astor Place from his newsstand. And, in his heavily-accented, gravelly mutterings, he set things straight. “That cube has no competition. It comes #1. They took it away. 60 days. They’ll bring it back. People are disappointed. This is what I call a piece of landmark. I’m going into the hospital tomorrow. Don’t call me. I give this information to the people as part of my business. I give newspapers. I give information. It’s business. It will be back. I will be back.”
Parks Department officials confirmed Jerry’s pronouncement. About the cube being taken away for cleaning. They didn’t comment on his medical condition.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 1, 2005