In DUMBO, progress on Brooklyn’s tallest-yet condo means saying goodbye to a whimsical, hand-painted garden that grew along with its 33 floors.
Artist Pasqualina Azzarello has reclaimed her 400-foot-long floral mural from the site of the sky-high J Condominium at Front and Jay streets, leaving only a drab chain-link fence less vulnerable to concrete spills and sidewalk drilling.
“A chapter in my relationship with DUMBO, and in the life of the neighborhood, has closed,” said the artist, who lived in the neighborhood for five years before dismantling the installation and moving to Park Slope a few weeks ago.
One hundred four-foot-by-eight-foot painted panels had surrounded the development since March, when Azzarello emerged from her studio — the only other building on the block — with a few bright blue tulips painted on scrap wood and left them on the site, against the fence, then barren.
“I knew that building was going to greatly change the physical and cultural landscape in the neighborhood,” said the artist. “I wanted to take part in the conversation without being adversarial.”
Over the next few weeks, construction workers at the site began leaving crumbled dollar bills — $47 over two weeks — in a makeshift tip jar left temporarily at the entrance to the site.
The developer asked her if she would be willing to paint the entire perimeter of the development, creating a tulip-lined path leading to the York Street F-station.
“It was a very interesting moment in the history of the neighborhood,” Azzarello said, “a developer and an artist meeting for lunch and making a business deal.”
The flower fence came down in time for builders to start digging the sidewalks.
“We always knew it was temporary, but it’s sad to see it gone,” said Alex Hurwitz, the manager of the development. “The workers are banging into it every day. We didn’t want to worry about it.”
For the construction workers who toiled alongside Azzarello as she painted, both the art and the artist will be missed.
“Having art around added some cheer,” said Jim Spence, a superintendent at the site. “People started talking to us, asking questions about what we were doing.”
The final goodbye to the garden, however, hasn’t happened just yet. Until Jan. 31, the 100 wooden panels will be for sale at the gallery above Retreat, a cafe on Front Street.
The painted panels will cost between $100 and $1,000.
At least one of the construction workers is eying one.
“It could work as a gift,” said Frank Nucatola, the senior manager at the site, “I’ll give it to my mother-in-law.”