The Transgender Artist Battling the City at the Allen Street Bathhouse

Posted on: September 10th, 2021 at 5:00 am by

For months, the historic bathhouse situated in the median of Allen and Delancey Streets has been a battleground between city and street artist.

The long-dormant building 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 Rose Madder, and her presence apparently became the proverbial red line for the city.

Nadja is a homeless transgender woman who began painting the here in early June. Completely transforming the brickwork and sidewalk into sweeping murals, she became something of a neighborhood sensation. Locals reacted positively; some asked to donate paint or other goods for her growing assemblage of random possessions.

The squatting mentality – non-commissioned artwork and piles of stuff – sparked battles with the Parks Department, Sanitation, and the 7th Precinct. We’re told that more than once she’s been removed and/or arrested from the premises and her possessions cleared away. At least one such altercation allegedly ended with a trip to Mount Sinai for psych evaluation.

Still she returns beautify the bathhouse.

“Nadja has a lot to say about art, and all kinds of political and sociological systems at play in society,” one neighbor tells us. “She is very pointed and completely on it. Her viewpoint from inside art, being without a home, politics and being transgender is one that needs hearing.”

It’s 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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