DDC employees in front of the renovated Alamo sculpture best known for its ability to spin on axis. The cube was fully returned and restored on November 1, 2016.
NYC Department of Design and Construction DDC employees in front of the renovated Alamo sculpture best known for its ability to spin on axis. The cube was fully returned and restored on November 1, 2016.

One of New York’s most beloved pieces of public art returned to its long-time home in Astor Square today following an almost two-year restoration, the New York City Department of Design and Construction (DDC) announced.

The Alamo, one of the most prominent features of the square since 1967, was removed November 25, 2014 as part of a $17.2 million project to rebuild the area with better pedestrian access and improved public safety. The sculpture, best known for its ability to spin on its axis, has undergone a $180,000 restoration.

“I am delighted the Cube is back – and that we are so close to finishing upgrades to another important pedestrian plaza,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Astor Place and this iconic artwork mark the heart of the East Village and serve as a crossroads for thousands of New Yorkers.”

The Alamo is the centerpiece of the neighborhood and, following its restoration, the highlight of a new and improved neighborhood square,” said DDC Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora. “Large, new pedestrian areas along with plantings and infrastructure improvements represent a major enhancement to this busy and vital area.”

The Alamo is a truly special focal point of downtown Manhattan and NYC Parks is thrilled that it will be returning,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP. “Parks has historically contributed its expertise to the upkeep of the Alamo, and we are pleased to see it newly restored to its former glory. Public art and its impact on people – especially young people – is integral to the way we experience our shared public spaces.”

The Alamo sculpture’s return symbolizes the artistic legacy of Astor Place,” said William Kelley, Executive Director of the Village Alliance Business Improvement District. “We’re proud to celebrate our diverse cultural heritage and to celebrate the area’s importance as the gateway to New York City’s downtown arts scene.”

The overall street project began in August 2013 and will be completed by late-Fall. Improvements to the area include the construction of Village Plaza, Alamo Plaza, as well as the reconstruction and expansion of Cooper Triangle, Peter Cooper Park and Subway Plaza. The overall construction includes 42,000-square-feet of new pedestrian space.

Construction is bringing 16,000-square-feet of new planting areas to the neighborhood, along with automated in-ground irrigation systems. Permeable paving is being installed along with bioswales for better stormwater management. New granite benches and pavers, and new trees and bike racks are also included. New water mains, sewers, catch basins and fire hydrants will be installed, and the streets, curbs, and sidewalks are being fully reconstructed.

The sculpture, which at 850 lbs. stands 15-feet high and is made from steel that is 1/8-inch thick, had previously been restored in 1987 and 2005. On recent inspection, the sculpture was found to have grime, graffiti and food stains. Scratches were visible in both the paint and the metal, and magnetic letters had been applied to some areas. Paint was missing or flaking and adhesive from stickers was visible. The cube also had water accumulation in recessed areas, and no longer rotated easily around its base.

During the restoration, the exterior coatings of the sculpture were removed and the metal surface was leveled by hand, with dents, scratches and seams filled and smoothed. It was then repainted black. Lasers were used to reduce interior corrosion, some interior metal elements were repaired or replaced, and additional structural supports were added. Coatings were removed from the top and underside of the base before it was repainted, and the pivot on which the cube spins was repaired. Bronze plaques were also cleaned and re-patinated. The Alamo restoration was done by Aegis Restauro, LLC, of Belle Mead, NJ.

The Alamo sculpture was created by Bernard J. “Tony” Rosenthal, an American sculptor considered to be one of the representatives of American abstract expressionism. Installed in 1967 as part of an exhibition organized by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, The Alamowas one of 25 temporary art installations that were intended to remain for a six-month period, however local residents successfully petitioned the City to keep it in place, and in 1968 the sculpture became a permanent gift to New York City by Knoedler Gallery, the artist, and an anonymous donor.

The sculpture’s title is said to have been selected by the artist's wife, Halina Rosenthal, because its scale and shape reminded her of the Alamo Mission. Alamo is one of five similar cubes created by Rosenthal. Rosenthal was born on August 9, 1914 in Highland Park, Illinois and died on July 28, 2009 in Southampton, New York.