Sculpture headed for Northside Piers in Williamsburg

TRD New York /
Apr.April 25, 2008 02:03 PM

Sculptor Mark Gibian will soon have his work permanently displayed in the neighborhood he has called home since the early 1980s, with a massive sculpture at the tip of the 400-foot pier outside Toll Brothers’ Williamsburg high-rise project, Northside Piers.

The abstract Northside Piers sculpture, which could be compared to a ship’s bow, departed Friday afternoon from Gibian’s upstate studio in Wallkill, normally a two-hour drive. But this trip will take at least a day because the 28-by-16-foot stainless steel sculpture is so wide, even after nine feet were shaved from one side that will be re-welded on-site. Permitting laws require the flatbed truck to take a winding route through New York and New Jersey, on some roads where it is only permitted to travel by day, and on others only by night. Police escorts are required for certain legs of the route.

Gibian said it took months of wrangling with the rigging company, route surveyors, and state and local authorities to secure permits. There have been at least five false departures. Last week, the rigger couldn’t depart because he didn’t have a permit to travel the two miles from Gibian’s Wallkill driveway to the state route, said Gibian. Monday, Gibian said he was told to readjust the load because it was two inches wider than the permit allowed.

The job became so enormously complicated that earlier this week Gibian said he was afraid Toll Brothers would give up on the sculpture altogether.

Toll Brothers was required to construct a public waterfront esplanade with a shade feature on the pier to get approval from the city to build Northside Piers.

“We could have frankly had a big umbrella up there with mesh on it,” said Shirley Jaffe, vice president of RD Management, a partner in the project. “We just thought it would be nice to have something dynamic, a focal point at the end of the pier … some sort of public art.”

Northside Piers is a 440-unit residential and retail project. The first tower, which has townhouses and affordable apartments, is nearly complete, and construction on the second tower recently started.

Jaffe said a number of people recommended Gibian, a local artist who is also sculpting three serpentine stainless steel pieces for the Tribeca segment of Hudson River Park. Gibian is known for his Cable Crossing artwork at the Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall subway station.

Originally, the sculpture was supposed to arrive over a month ago, greeted by a crowd of reporters and a 150-foot barge crane that would dramatically lift the massive arch from the flatbed truck and place it on the edge of the pier, where its crescendo bench awaits. Gibian said the rigger even washed his truck for the occasion.

Now, Gibian said it would be left in the construction site’s storage space for installation at a later time.

While Gibian said he didn’t profit much from the project, which will be visible from Manhattan, the opportunity was well worth it. “The Circle Line is going to go by it, so it’s great exposure,” he said. “It’s a once in a lifetime location and these are designs I’ve been thinking about for a while.”

Gibian recently built his own Williamsburg development, a 20,000-square-foot apartment and commercial building on Roebling Street between North 4th and North 5th streets.

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