Have you heard about this sidewalk? No, I don’t expect you have—it’s just another stretch of Brooklyn sidewalk, after all, just another drop in Bushwick’s street art bucket. Just a bunch of black and white squares sprawling across the patch of pavement outside a fancy new apartment building going up at 205 Central Avenue! But oh boy, this particular piece of concrete, and its whimsical checkerboard pattern, really proved polarizing today.
On Thursday, Gothamist received a tip from a concerned Bushwick resident named Markee who, earlier this week, was surprised to see a painted strip appear on the sidewalk, as if a patch of linoleum flooring went rogue and escaped its kitchen prison. Our tipster was alarmed to notice that the pattern seemed to grow overnight like a rash, expanding cell by cell while she slept—a nightmare of squares! Markee, who views the artwork as an “eyesore,” called it in to 311, wondering, “How is this legal?”
As a matter of fact, it’s not: A Department of Transportation spokesperson confirmed that people cannot legally paint the sidewalks. Unauthorized artistry typically begets a fine, and property owners usually get 30 days to remove their work before an official penalty follows.
Lindsay Risk, owner of RISK Boutique and Gallery—a clothing-store-slash-art-space opening Friday on the apartment building’s ground floor—seemed genuinely surprised to learn she’d violated an ordinance, although she noted that the Department of Buildings contacted her Thursday and that she’d paid a fine for the paint job.
“It wasn’t me rebelling against anybody, I just did it and I never had a problem with it before,” she told Gothamist.
Risk’s store used to be located on Varick Avenue, complete with signature checkerboard sidewalk: “The kids loved it, they played hopscotch, it was a very happy environment, people just liked it.” So when she moved to her new location, the checkerboard—purportedly intended to symbolize forward motion, advancement in life as on a chess board—came, too, wet paint applied late at night to reduce the likelihood of people walking through it.
“My store is also sort of an adult playground, in that sense it’s like Alice in Wonderland,” Risk added. “It’s almost like Barbie’s closet, there’s a lot of pink, it’s playful. You can come in and play dress-up, get your photo taken, be Instagram model of the day, hang out with your friends, we do birthday parties and bachelorette parties, it’s a combination.”
Another local resident tells us the sidewalk pattern complements the “wacky” vibe of the store’s interior, visible only when he peeked through gaps in the paper covering RISK’s windows (mystique must be preserved in advance of a grand opening after all).
And you? What do you think of this checkerboard sidewalk, surprising divider of opinions? Do you think it adds a whimsical charm to an otherwise bland corner? Are you shaking your head at this latest example of Bushwick gentrification? Do you fear that the squares may prove disorienting to walk on and cause people to go all wobbly? Is this just too zany? Did you get really sick of your Vans after high school and don’t want to look at this pattern anymore? Do you care either way?