New meaning to ‘meter maid’

The Brooklyn Paper
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You get more than parking for your quarter on Montague Street these days.

Artist Magda Sayag and over two dozen volunteers recently wrapped all the parking meter poles on the main commercial street in Brooklyn Heights with hand−knitted cozies.

Her artwork, 69 Meters, transforms the ordinary into something new and different. Created with the help of more than 50 knitters from Brooklyn and beyond, this project has drawn in many community members.

Some volunteers are like Lydia Austin of Bushwick, a confirmed knitter from Brooklyn who made one of the cozies and helped install them. She had heard of Magda’s work, found out about 69 Meters through an online knitting group “and was really excited to be involved.” She likes how the work “brings beauty to mundane, everyday stuff and catches people’s eye.”

Susan Vincent Molinaro, who describes herself as an “obsessive knitter” from the suburbs, came to Brooklyn Heights to be part of this public art project.

“I love people walking down the street and asking about what we’re doing,” she said.

Evening strollers and residents coming home from work stopped to watch the meter poles being changed from bland gray to multicolored pink, blue, yellow and green posts.

Local artists such as Katerina Usvitsky of Greenwood and Megan Canning of Clinton Hill, who already work with textiles, were energized by the work and the chance to be part of it. Other volunteers, like Stephanie Elson of Gowanus and Leslie McBeth of Greenpoint, describe themselves as crafters, mostly knitting gifts for family and friends.

Sayag, founder of the Texas−based group Knitta Please, has left her knitted mark around the world. Starting with small “tags” placed on door handles and sign posts, her first large−scale project was wrapping a column supporting the monorail in Seattle in 2006. Since then she’s taken her knit graffiti to places like Paris and Mexico City, where she wrapped an entire bus. Her goal is always to change the feel of a city’s public space.

“I always had wanted to do a piece in New York,” said Sayag. “I saw the repetitive parking meters” and inspiration followed. Keeping Montague Street feeling new and different is part of Chelsea Mauldin’s job as executive director of the Montague Street Business Improvement District (BID).

“One of our missions is to beautify the street,” she said. “I had seen a piece of Magda’s and contacted her,” said Mauldin. They discussed various projects and looked for “a streetscape element that would be experienced as people walked the street.”

After commissioning the work, Mauldin enlisted the support of the New York City Department of Transportation, the agency in charge of the meters. Through the department’s Arterventions program, permission was obtained for the work.

Mauldin and the Montague Street BID are busy. In addition to 69 Meters, artist Emily Krohn of Bedford−­Stuyvesant has been making beautiful, spring−themed paintings in store windows up and down the street. A 2009 graduate of Pratt Institute in Fort Greene, Krohn’s work was first seen on Montague in the windows of The Heights CafÉ last winter where it caught Mauldin’s attention. Soon, up to 15 merchants will have blooming branches drawing the eyes of pedestrians to storefronts.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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