Street Artists Giving Tunnel to 191st Street Subway Station a Makeover

Walking through a dark, block-long tunnel to reach an upper Manhattan subway station has long been one of the most unpleasant, and sometimes dreaded, experiences in the transit system, but the passage is getting a cheerful makeover. NY1's Jose Martinez filed the following report.

The walls of the long pedestrian tunnel leading to the 191st Street subway station are getting marked up again, but not by graffiti taggers, who for decades, have turned the passageway into an eyesore.

"Right now, the way it is, it looks awful," said one commuter. "But painting some murals would be awesome."

That's what the city's Department of Transportation is doing: hiring teams of street artists to paint the 900-foot tunnel that thousands of riders use daily to reach the 1 train.

"With the artwork we're going to have there, it'll actually be fun," said Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. "You'll get to see some really beautiful, interesting urban art from some artists that are known internationally, that specialize in, basically, urban murals."

Two of the artists, Jessie Unterhalter and Katey Truhn, plan to paint a pattern design of shapes, colors and lines.

"I want people to redefine what to think about public art and also just have a good experience walking down the tunnel," Unterhalter said.

Residents say they've taken lots of creepy walks through the passageway, which was dimly lit until a few months ago, when the DOT installed brighter lighting.

People NY1 spoke to say they're excited about the new look, but that they also want a crackdown on cyclists who zip past.

"That's a safety hazard. Come on," said one commuter.

Another problem is the absence of an security cameras. People who use the station, and even some of the artists, figure the tunnel's new look may not last long.

"People are still the same. They will make it as it was before in one year," said one commuter.

"I absolutely expect graffiti on the walls, on the art. That's kind of a given," said artist Nick Kuszyk.

DOT officials say they're hoping that because local artists are involved, vandals will keep their hands off. As for security cameras, the agency says that's in the hands of the NYPD.

To let the artists finish their work, the tunnel will be closed from 10:30 a.m. Friday until 5 a.m. Tuesday. Other station entrances will remain open, and 1 train service will be unaffected.

By rush hour Tuesday, the DOT promises the makeover will be complete.

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