Jim Power, better known around the East Village as the “Mosaic Man,” was on hand for the reinstallation of another of his ceramic-encrusted lampposts along Astor Place this morning, the third of seven poles that will eventually return to the redesigned blocks around Cooper Square. Power, 69, observed from his mosaic-laden motorized scooter as staff from the Village Alliance positioned the lamppost near the Astor Place subway entrance, pausing to chat with neighborhood friends and curious passersby.
The famed mosaic totems are returning to Astor Place after a two year absence. In 2014, Power began dismantling his own creations in protest after hearing that the city planned to remove them during construction on Astor Place. Power and the city eventually settled on an arrangement that will allow for seven of the mosaic poles to eventually return to the renovated Astor Place, the first of which was reinstalled in June. Power said the remaining lampposts will require at least another month of work.
With the help of the Village Alliance, Power has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise the money necessary to complete the Astor Place poles. The campaign has thus far raised $3,528 of its $20,000 goal. “Trying to raise money is a job that just slows us down,” he said. “What we really need is a patron.”
Power, a Vietnam veteran, plans to start giving tours of his Mosaic Trail in the coming weeks. The artist has been decorating East Village lampposts and planters with bits of glass, ceramic, and tile for over three decades, paying tribute to neighborhood characters and institutions with his art. One recently reinstalled lamppost base honors Michael Malloy, a homeless man who earned the tabloid moniker “Rasputin of the Bronx” in 1933 after surviving several poisoning attempts only to be murdered by a group of men who had taken out an insurance policy on his life.
A public unveiling event is planned for once all of the restored lampposts are in place, though Power said that unless he is able to raise more money the work might not be completed until next year.
“If you start trouble, you have to ready to finish it,” he said. “And I am.”
The return of the Mosaic Man’s creations signals that the three-year slog of the Astor Place redesign is finally nearing completion, but one iconic piece of the neighborhood landscape is still missing: the Cube. Despite a number of false alarms over the past few months announcing The Alamo’s imminent return, the Tony Rosenthal sculpture has yet to find its way back to its namesake plaza. We’ve asked the Department of Design and Construction for an update and will let you know what, if anything, we hear.