The City’s Battle to Keep One Artist from Reaching the Allen Bathhouse

Posted on: September 28th, 2021 at 5:10 am by

Photo: Alison Colby

One street artist remains a thorn in the Lower East Side of the city.

Nadja Rose Madder will not be deterred from her artistic muse – the Allen Street Bathhouse at Delancey.

Parks Department claimed the chain-link enclosure installed last week was a “safety mechanism” to protect spillover of art and belongings into traffic. But the reality appears opposite; locked to keep the transgender street artist at bay. Including a bold red sign proclaiming the area as a “danger.”

No sooner did the fence go up than the reactionary art begin. The perimeter is now covered with randomness and biting messaging. Random scrawls like “C U Never” on a discarded door or “LOL” painted below the Parks’ sign that reads, “this area is under surveillance.”

The long-dormant Allen Street bathhouse itself – erected as a bathroom for Second Avenue El passengers in the 1930s – has been a target of taggers and graffiti artists for years. Along came Nadja, whose work struck a chord with the community, and her presence sparked altercations with Parks, police, and Sanitation.

Photo: Alison Colby

It’s still worth noting that the city has back-burner plans (dating back to at least 2016) to repurpose this structure into a neighborhood concession. Upsilon Ventures, a company that operates restaurants and event spaces in public areas across the city, reportedly signed a twenty-year lease in 2019 to convert the dilapidated comfort station into a food service facility.

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