Street art gets new meaning


Who painted the peculiar tattoo-like design on the step-street connecting Broadway and Naples Terrace near West 231st Street? The city cleared up the mystery last week.

The Department of Transportation held a press conference on Oct. 3 to announce that it was not the work of a vandal, but that of a commissioned artist: Steed Taylor.

And the art, referred to as a “road tattoo,” is based on local history. 

Mr. Taylor, a 53-year-old Manhattanite who has produced public art projects across the country, said he was inspired by the Spuyten Duyvil Creek, which is said to have had such a strong tidal current it knocked down the old King’s Bridge — later replaced by the Broadway bridge — repeatedly. 

Titled “The Bridge & The Devil,” the steps are painted so that on the walk up, one can see a Celtic knot design that represents the King’s Bridge, as well as the neighborhood’s Irish roots. On the way down, you see a dark blue tribal design that Mr. Steed said represents “the strong and dangerous tidal current” of the Spuyten Duyvil Creek.

Mr. Steed asked his friend, Rev. Seamus Campbell to bless the step-street, which he did at the press conference on Oct. 3.

The work is part of the DOT’s Urban Art program and was sponsored by Visual AIDS, an arts organization committed to fighting HIV and AIDS.

“I’m hoping it will make the walk up and down the stairs more enjoyable,” Mr. Steed said.

The art seems to have succeeded.

“Before, I only walked, now I walk and I enjoy the steps,” said Naples Terrace resident Yuan Liao, 46, in Spanish.

Locals, as well as a Riverdale Press photographer, were curious whether the work was an act of vandalism or a commissioned public art project. After it had already been in place for weeks, the DOT last week to cleared up the mystery with a small sign posted at the bottom of the stairs, which explains the piece and gives credit to Mr. Taylor. 

—Reporting contributed by Marisol Diaz