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William L. Benzon 28 November 2007 Revised 28 July 2013

Skate Park to the World


William L. Benzon CONTENTS

Executive Summary ....................................................................................................................................... 2 Addendum: 2013 ........................................................................................................................................... 2 A Cultural Corridor in Jersey City ............................................................................................................ 4 Skate Park, Old and New ........................................................................................................................... 5 Site Map: Cultural Corridor ........................................................................................................................ 8 Sixth Street Embankment ............................................................................................................................ 9 Skate Park (and International Graffiti Jam) ........................................................................................... 9 Bergen Hill Walk ............................................................................................................................................ 9 Rail Museum and Restaurant .................................................................................................................... 10 Graffiti Museum and Center for the Urban Arts ............................................................................... 10 Erie Cut Bergen Arches: Garden of Nations ................................................................................... 12 Route 139: Boulevard of Nations ........................................................................................................... 13 Meadowlands Gateway ............................................................................................................................... 14 Economic Benefits ....................................................................................................................................... 14 Grand Opening: Power to Power 2020 ................................................................................................ 16 Conclusion: Why Graffiti? ......................................................................................................................... 16 Appendix: Graffiti in Jersey City............................................................................................................. 17 222 Van Horne St., 3R Jersey City, NJ 07304 201.217.1010
Frontispiece: Looking West in the Erie Cut beneath the Baldwin Avenue arch; photograph taken on July 15, 2008.

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Jersey City has an unparalleled opportunity for developing park space and cultural amenities in a two-mile corridor running from the Powerhouse Arts District in the East, along the Sixth Street Embankment to the Palisades, then along the East face the Bergen Hill to the Bergen Tunnel, and west through the Erie Cut-Bergen Arches to JFK Boulevard. What is unique about this strategy is that it builds on both abandoned railroad properties and on Jersey Citys status as a center for graffiti art of the highest caliber. By capitalizing on its graffiti heritage, Jersey City can attract tourists from around the world and establish itself as an international center of cutting-edge art. This development strategy includes three park-garden areas: 1) Sixth Street Embankment, 2) Bergen Hill Walk, and 3) Erie Cut. At full development the Erie Cut would have a series of small gardens in various national styles Indian, Chinese, Spanish, etc. and a conservatory linking the bottom of the cut to the street-level surface (Route 139). There would also be two modest museum complexes: 1) a graffiti museum at 12th and Monmouth, and 2) a railroad museum nearby at the Bergen Tunnel. These complexes would include restaurants and shops. A thumbnail calculation indicates that these developments could bring new tourist revenue to the city in the amount $36 to $90 million (or more) annually. Other benefits include increased property values along the corridor and new businesses.

When I originally prepared this report late in 2007 I did so mostly out of a desire to put the pieces together. I knew that if this plan were realized, the world would respond; that is, I constructed the plan to match the needs of the larger world. But, given the realities of Jersey City political and civil life, I did not think there was much chance that it would be taken seriously in Jersey City. I did however show it to a number of people, many of them life-long residences of Jersey City, and these people liked it, while at the same time feeling, as I did, that there was little chance of Jersey City undertaking such a set of projects. A couple of years ago I placed the report online, at Scribd: It has been read by almost 1000 people to date. Of course, I have no idea who these people are. But I have reason to believe that many of them live in Jersey City. On August 1, 2011 I placed a link to that report on JCList, where it has generated mixed response, as one would expect: Things have now changed, for the better. While the skate park that was being planned late in 2007 never materialized, the City now intends to build a skate park in the new Berry Lane Park. More importantly, I now give the project a 15 percent chance of completion. That 15% is just a number; theres nothing rigorous about it. Thats not high, but its better than it had late in 2007. I see that three developments that make the project more likely: 1) Steve Fulop was elected mayor, 2) the High Line is being constructed in Manhattan, and 3) Mana Contemporary has opened in
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Jersey City. I figure each of those factors independently accounts for 5% of the proposals increased likelihood. In the first place, the election of Steve Fulop and his team to head city government indicates that things are changing in Jersey City. Fulops victory signals a major shift in the electorate. A LOT of people had to change their minds to make that take place. In the second place, New York Citys High Line is now recognized as a success. It didnt exist when I sketched this plan. If Chicagos Millennium Park is the first important new urban space built in the United States in this new millennium, then the High Line is the second important space. This proposal is similar to the High Line in many respects, but quite different, and unique to Jersey City, in other respects. The world has thus validated one aspect of my proposal. Finally, Mana Contemporary has arrived on the scene. Mana Contemporary is a multi-purpose arts complex located in the Journal Square area of Jersey City. It has mounted major exhibitions of the caliber of art that will draw people to Jersey City from New York City and ultimately from out of town. As explained in a recent New York Times article Mana Contemporary is drawing people to Jersey City who ordinarily would not visit here, though not yet in significant numbers. The founders believe that Mana Contemporary will be so successful that they plan to build a hotel at the site. That hotel will be only five or six blocks from the location Id slated for a hotel in this plan. That will, of course, increase property values in the Journal Square area and draw-in new businesses. It will make the proposals in this report more plausible. At the same time, the proposed cultural corridor will draw more people to the city and funnel them directly to Mana Contemporary, thereby increasing the number of visitors and thus the value of their investment.

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It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us . . . that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address I always tell people that if you want to know whats going on with a city, look at the writing on the wall: you can tell what skill level and what social problems are happening, whats going on with the youth. Toons, Los Angeles graffiti artist


Over the a few weeks late in 2007, since then Councilman Steve Fulop proposed to create a skate park under the thruway, I had private discussions about broader development issues, primarily Downtown, but also in the Journal Square and Heights areas along the Erie Cut. This document outlines the general strategy that has emerged from those discussions. The general idea is to create a cultural corridor extending from the Powerhouse Arts District to the Palisades, then north along the east face of Bergen Hill to the Bergen Tunnel, and then west through the Erie Cut to JFK Boulevard. This cultural corridor would embrace both the Sixth Street Embankment and the Erie Cut (aka the Bergen Arches), which have been embroiled in controversy of a familiar kind: quality of life vs. economic development. While quality of life is winning these battles, the final outcome is by no means certain. I believe that this dichotomy is false. This document outlines a strategy through which the citizens of Jersey City can: 1) preserve these two valuable and unique resources for recreation, 2) strengthen Jersey Citys artistic community, and 3) develop Jersey City as an important international tourist destination, thereby bringing money to the city. The key to this proposal lies in Jersey Citys rich heritage of graffiti conversations on walls. I have spent the past year documenting graffiti that is within a mile or so of Hamilton Park. Most of it is under the turnpike viaducts behind Enos Jones Park, along Hoboken Avenue as it goes up the side of the Palisades, and in the Erie Cut and just beyond its western end, under the bridges there. This work is of the highest quality, some of it by artists having international reputations in the graffiti world and related design areas (apparel, sneakers, extreme sports, music and video, etc.). Graffiti has become an international phenomenon, with significant work on every continent, North, South, East, and West. Elite graffiti artists travel the globe, painting in city after city. And some of them have painted in Jersey City. This is not the place to review the history of graffiti, however, nor to argue its cultural importance, nor even to review the work being done in
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Jersey City though Ive provided an appendix that lists links to my online writing about Jersey Citys graffiti. For the moment I want to proceed on the assumption that graffiti is globally significant and will become more so in the future. Given that, Jersey City has an important role to play in this development, one that will foster development in a way that enhances quality of life. I view these proposals as an elaboration of the recommendation made by the Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy for the adaptive reuse of the Bergen Arches and Erie Cut as open space, connecting with the Sixth Street Embankment as a connector for the East Coast Greenway. In addition, I propose that we permit graffiti painting in the Arches and under the thruway behind Enos Jones park, where it already exists, and that we consider developing both a graffiti museum and a modest railroad museum, along with other enhancements and amenities. Though I have made no attempt to estimate the costs of these various projects, my sense is that the full development would be comparable the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, at roughly $230 million, and Millennium Park in Chicago, roughly $475 million, both of which have proven well-worth the municipal investment. Both of those projects, however, were all-or-none ventures. Once the decision had been made to proceed, it became necessary to go all the way. The concept I outline in this document is quite different. It consists of a suite of loosely linked projects of varying scope and expense. One can pick and choose which to implement, and the implementation order is relatively flexible. It is thus a strategy that readily allows for growth and adjustment over the course of a decade or more. ***** Ive organized this document as follows: First I review skate park that Councilman Fulop had proposed in 2007. Thats what got me thinking about larger issues. After that I have a satellite map (courtesy of Google Earth) of the potential development sites. I then outline possible lines of development in order from the East to the West. Finally I offer some observations about economic returns and I conclude with a suggestion for a grand opening celebration in 2020.


Over the past year a group of teens and young adults constructed a skate park on a site east of Hoboken Avenue below Christ Hospital. (see pictures below). The site was also used by graffiti artists, some of international stature, who painted and repainted the walls. In the middle of October, demolition began on the site, rendering it useless as a skate park, though much of the graffiti has remained. After consulting with some of the skate-boarders, Councilman Fulop called a meeting for 19 November to discuss ideas for a new skate park to be located beneath the thruway. I attended this meeting, along with 30 or 40 skate-boarders, a parent or two, and the owner of a tea shop who is sponsoring a skateboard team. Fulop said that he would be negotiating with the thruway authority for park space under one of the thruway viaducts (possibly at 7th and Newark) and that, as far as he was concerned, the park was a done deal. He asked the skate boarders for their input on the design and indicated that, once things got rolling, he would meet with them once a month until the park opened up.

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Skate park and graffiti at Hoboken Avenue:

I note that Ceaze (upper right) has painted all over the country and in Japan. Possible site of proposed park:

Roughly a quarter of a mile north of the proposed park:

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The triceratops is roughly 7 feet high and 18 feet wide. It was painted by Japan Joe, who also has a piece at the old chocolate factory and two pieces under the bridges beyond the western end of the Erie Cut. Photographs, old skate park: Proposed site for new park:

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1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.

Sixth Street embankment. Proposed skate park: 7th & Newark Bergen Hill Walk Railroad Museum, Restaurant Graffiti Museum & studios Erie Cut Bergen Arches, plus 139 at the surface Meadowlands Gateway

A straight-line path from the eastern end of the embankment to the Bergen Hill, then North to the Erie Cut, and then West through the cut is about two miles long.
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Given that the overall objective is to establish a cultural corridor originating with the Powerhouse Arts District in the East, it is important to note that the eastern end of the Sixth Street Embankment is only four blocks away from the northwest corner of the PAD, at Marin and Second. In conformity with current community desire, the Sixth Street Embankment should be developed as a passive recreation area, with connections between the blocks and entry points on each block. The major issue is the connection between the embankment and the proposed Bergen Hill Walk. Should a landscaped ground-level path be developed or should the connection be made above ground, through a series of pedestrian bridges? Photographs:


At this moment Councilman Fulop is working with the Turnpike Authority and with a group of skate boarders to develop a skate park under the thruway at Newark and 7th Street, below Dickinson. As graffiti painting is an aspect of skateboard culture it should be legal at this site. There are now a number of sanctioned graffiti sites in the United States and around the world, so there is an existing base of experience to build on in permitting such use. With graffiti legal at this site, it would be possible to organize an annual international graffiti jam. Such an event would attract graffiti artists from around the world to come to the park and paint on its surfaces. The writers expenses could be covered by sponsorship from sources such as the music, apparel, and extreme sports industries. In the course of the subsequent year, after the jam, this graffiti would be written over by the work of other artists, local, regional, national, and even international. The graffiti jam could be coordinated with the annual artists studio tour and could also be accompanied by a hip-hop and break dance show at Lowes Theatre. This event would thus help consolidate and strengthen Jersey Citys existing artistic community. The event would establish Jersey City as an international arts center and thus validate the premise of these proposals, that Jersey Citys graffiti heritage is an economic asset. Photographs, proposed site:


The Bergen Hill Walk would extend from the Journal Square PATH line behind Jersey City Cemetery, along the East slope of Bergen Hill below Dickinson High School, to the Bergen Tunnel, and possibly beyond it along Hoboken Avenue. This walk affords spectacular views of the turnpike viaducts and of Jersey City. The topography is pleasingly complex in a way that gives one a sense of exploration and adventure while walking it. For all practical purposes, the proposed skate park is a part of this site. The Bergen Hill Walk would meet the proposed Rail Museum and Graffiti Museum areas at the Bergen Tunnel. This would also be a point of entry into the Erie Cut from below.

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The stanchions supporting the 12th and 14th Street viaducts are richly painted in graffiti starting parallel to 9th street and continuing through to the Bergen Tunnel. Graffiti painting should be made legal at these sites. The major issue concerns the active CSX (was Conrail) line through this area. The line needs to be fenced off in a way that is effective, but does not impede access to the grounds and to the graffiti at the base of the supporting stanchions of the thruway viaducts. Photographs, Bergen Hill Walk:

Graffiti under the thruway behind Enos Jones Park:


The series of developments I am proposing are on land that either was used by railroads (the Sixth street embankment, Bergen Hill walk, the Erie cut) or facilities serviced by railroads (the building at 12th and Monmouth). It is thus appropriate that Jersey Citys railroad heritage be honored directly. This can be done by constructing a railroad museum near the East end of the Bergen Tunnel. It might go above the tunnel, or perhaps directly to the south, in the mouth of the Erie Cut, which was filled-in when the cut was abandoned. This site is appropriate because: 1) it is near a still active railroad line, and 2) it looks out on an area that, fifty years ago, was teeming with railroad facilities and activity. This is not a place to exhibit rolling stock, but it would be a splendid location for an interactive virtual reality recreation of the railroad operations that existed in Jersey City 50 years ago. I note further that there is an intimate link between railroads and graffiti, as a great deal of graffiti is written on freight cars. This general location is, in fact, an ideal one from which to photograph graffiti on passing freight trains; perhaps a ground-level station can be built specifically for this purpose. In order to take further advantage of the views I suggest there should be a restaurant in the building, and perhaps a nightclub as well. The entire complex museum, restaurant, and nightclub should be no more than two or three stories high so that it doesnt block views from Palisades Avenue above. It should be designed so that it nestles in the site as though it were a natural formation. Photographs, East end of the Bergen Tunnel:


Note, July 2013: This particular feature of the total project is likely pre-empted by the existence of Mana Contemporary, which began as a discussion about creating a graffiti museum. I leave it in the report because the issues it raises remain valid.
While graffiti-based art is in museum collections (e.g. Brooklyn Museum) and private collections, there is no museum dedicated to it. This creates an opportunity for Jersey City to score a
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significant FIRST, one that would reverberate internationally through the world-wide graffiti community, related areas of design, and through the art world in general.
(As a side note, I observe that the Liberty Science Center has an interactive graffiti exhibit in which people can write digital graffiti on digital walls.)

The abandoned industrial building at 12th and Monmouth would be an appropriate site for a graffiti museum. Though Ive not been inside the building, I have been told that there is some excellent graffiti on its walls. Much of the tagging on the outside is new. Thus it is historically appropriate that this building be used as a graffiti museum. The museum should team-up with Susan Farrell, a graffiti expert who has developed the oldest and most extensive graffiti site on the web. Together they could work with Google to develop strategies for visually searching online images, not only to identify graffiti, but specific kinds of graffiti. Thus the museum could become home to the most sophisticated online archive of graffiti world-wide. The location is readily accessible by car and area behind the building could be used for parking. It is less than a mile from the Newport-Pavonia PATH station. I do not know whether or not the building has a basement, but it appears to have four floors above ground. The building's exterior footprint measures roughly 177 ft. by 127 ft. That means each floor is over 20,000 sq. ft. for a total of well over 80,000 sq. ft. on four floors. Perhaps half the building should be used for the graffiti museum and the other half for appropriate rent generating purposes, such as artist studios, recording studios, video and film studios, etc. Alternatively, the museum might want to share the building with the Dia Foundation, which specializes in large-scale contemporary art, the kind of work that is difficult to display because it is so large. Their major location is in a renovated Nabisco factory in Westchester County in the town of Beacon, New York. They recently abandoned plans to create gallery space in Manhattan near the High Line, leaving them without permanent display space in New York City. They might well consider locating in Jersey City in the context of the kind of programs proposed in this document. Photographs, building at 12th and Monmouth:

Yard behind the building:

Art Crimes: The Writing on the Wall: Dia Foundation:

Recent New York Times article about Dia:

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The Erie Cut-Bergen Arches presents the most interesting development opportunity, one that is difficult to appreciate unless you have been down into the cut. The vegetation is almost jungle-like in density, giving one the feeling of exploring for ancient civilizations in far-flung exotic places. While one can see an occasional glimpse of a ground level building here and there, the sense of isolation is profound. I emphatically second the recommendation of the Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy that this magnificent site be developed for use by pedestrians and possibly bicycle riders. I further recommend that graffiti currently in the cut be retained and that graffiti painting be allowed at those locations. The presence of this graffiti increases the sense that one is walking among the ruins of ancient and forgotten civilizations. The juxtaposition between the often highly colored graffiti and the jungle richness is both striking and pleasing. Conceptually I see three possible levels of development for the cut. Before explaining what they are, however, I would like to quote the description of the cut that is contained in the NJDOTfunded report, Bergen Arches Study: Final Report, September 2002, (p. 4):
The Bergen Arches is a 4,400-foot long open cut through the Bergen Hill in Jersey City. It was constructed by the Erie Railroad from 1907 to 1910 to provide four track passenger rail operations to the waterfront in Jersey City. The Bergen Arches consists of open cut sections with bridges and tunnels. It was designated the Bergen Arches Historic District by the New Jersey State Historic Preservation Office in 1998. The open cut sections of the Bergen Arches were developed by the Erie Railroad by blasting through solid rock. The open cut sections are approximately 60-feet wide at the base and the depth of the cut sections from street level varies from 40 to 75-feet. Concrete walls or fences surround the top of the cut sections at street level. There are four tunnel sections. The typical tunnel cross section is concrete-lined with an arched roof, contains a clear span (width) that varies with the minimum at 56-feet and has vertical clearance that also varies from 9 to 26-feet. There are two concrete arch bridges at Baldwin Avenue and at Palisades Avenue. Additionally the Conrail Viaduct was later constructed in 1927 by the State Highway Department and carries Route 139 over the Bergen Arches cut and it has a clear span of 56feet and a vertical clearance of 22-feet. The Route 139 Covered Highway adjoins the Bergen Arches area and was constructed in 1927 by the State Highway Department.

Beyond this, I note that one railroad track remains in the cut. This could be removed or be left in place to be used as a planter for flowers, grasses, herbs, and small bushes. The most basic level of development makes the cut more accessible, but little more. This requires creating access at the two ends of the cut and at one or more points between. Roughly half way through the cut, at Central and Hoboken, one finds the abandoned building of Cortes & Co., which manufactured sausages. A wedge-shaped segment of the building extends over the cut. This is a logical place to situate some kind of vertical access into the cut. It would also be an appropriate location for a small restaurant and-or small shops. There is also ground level parking at this location. A more elaborate level of development takes its cue from the fact that Jersey City is increasingly a city of immigrants, many from the Middle and Far East. I propose that modest plots
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throughout the cut be used to create gardens in the styles of various nations contributing citizens to Jersey City. The gardens could be designed in conjunction with experts from the contributing nations, which might also contribute funds for the initial design and creation of the gardens. While the City would ultimately be responsible for the gardens, it should explore the possibility of having them maintained by garden clubs, thus creating direct citizen participation in the care of this park. There is, however, a conspicuous problem with this suggestion: many people emigrate to Jersey City from tropical and semi-tropical climates. Many characteristic plant species native to those climates would not survive in the cut. This problem could be addressed by enclosing part of the cut to create a climate-controlled conservatory. For example, the segment (roughly) between Summit Ave. and Bevan Ave. could be enclosed, with the enclosure to include one or both of the short tunnels at the ends of this segment. The enclosed section would be a bit less than the size of an American football field. Such a conservatory enclosure would, of course, be a structure at the ground level, above the floor of the cut, and thus contribute directly to the development of the Journal Square neighborhood and to the adjacent area of the Heights. The center of this structure would be roughly 740 feet north of Five Corners. While this conservatory might be a relatively expensive project, both to construct and to maintain, it is also an opportunity for Jersey City to construct a unique building of international distinction think of, for example, the glass pyramid that I. M. Pei designed as the new entrance to the Louvre, in Paris. However, the decision and consequent financial commitment to construct the conservatory need not be made at the beginning. It can easily be delayed while other aspects of this strategy have time to prove-out in practice. Finally, I note that while these development projects would take place below ground level, they would have significant impact at the surface-level. The cut parallels Route 139, which currently is a conduit. It moves traffic east and west across the Palisades and traffic moves across it going north or south. There are no destinations along 139 that draw people to them. That will change once access points are established so that people can enter and exit the cut along 139. The conservatory would itself be a major destination and would draw vehicle and pedestrian traffic to the western half of the cut. This suggests, in turn, that an opportunity might well emerge for a private developer to build a hotel or hotel-condominium complex at the western end of the cut near Kennedy Boulevard. It could be built at the edge the cut with access directly down into the cut. With the Journal Square PATH station less than a mile away, such a complex would contribute to the revitalization of that area. About Peis pyramid:

Photographs, Bergen Arches-Erie Cut:

Photographs, Cortes & Co.


Physically, Route 139 has the potential for being a grand boulevard. But, as I have noted in the previous section, it is currently nothing more than a transit zone. People pass along or across it en
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route to somewhere else. The southern edge of 139 borders directly on the cut, through there are significant bridging structures across the cut. Specifically, there is an area 500 feet wide roughly between Oakland and Central; this area is currently a parking lot (which, presumably, serves the courthouse and related buildings a few blocks away). The northern edge of the cut borders on the Heights and contains housing, small businesses, and abandoned buildings. It is not at all obvious how this area would be affected by the development of the cut; but it would certainly be affected. Zoning should be adopted to protect the areas immediately bordering on the cut from the creation of structures that would destroy the ambience down in the cut. Beyond this, I note only that development in this area should complement the international flavor of the gardens in the cut. Given the presence of significant immigrant populations living in this area (e.g. Little India), this should not be difficult to achieve. Finally, I suggest that a program of colorful banners and planters along 139 would brighten-up the area, lending it a festive air, and yet cost relatively little. Photographs, 139 survey:

Finally, we need to think about possible lines of development for the land just beyond the western end of the Erie Cut, north of St. Peters Cemetery and south of North American Plywood. I have only one specific suggestion, but I simply want to note that, in the context of these other projects, that land will become valuable. We should begin thinking about how to develop it appropriately. My specific suggestion is but one example of what could be done at this site. This area could be used as an outdoor sculpture garden, perhaps by Dia Foundation (see the discussion of the graffiti museum on page 11), or perhaps by another foundation or museum. I am intrigued by the possibility of commissioning someone like Richard Serra or Maya Lin to create a large work here that is designed to accept graffiti. Such a collaboration, could it be arranged, would be stunning and would itself attract visitors to Jersey City and further establish the citys reputation as a center for cutting-edge art. Photographs of the gateway:

Richard Serra, 40-year retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art:

Maya Lin:

In addition to the quality of life benefits these projects would afford the citizens of Jersey City, the net effect of them would be to transform Jersey City into a premier international tourist destination. While it is difficult to estimate the income from such tourism, it is instructive to consider two comparison cases: the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, and Millennium Park in
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Chicago. Both of these developments have been very successful. As I indicated in the introduction, the former cost $230 million and the latter, $470 million. The Guggenheim museum transformed a small industrial city, with a population of 350,000, into a major international tourist destination. It has generated an average of 779,028 new overnight stays per year since the museum opened and earns almost $40 million a year for the Basque treasury. Chicagos Millennium Park has increased property values, attracted new businesses, attracted retirees (to its accessible and mostly free programming), and has attracted new tourists and Chicago was already a premier tourist destination. The park attracted 2 million people within the first six months after it opened, with the average international visitor spending $300 per day and over-night domestic visitors spending $150 per day. These two cases are quite different from one another, yet both are clear examples of the economic benefit of well-planned cultural venues. Jersey City is different from either of those cases. It is similar in population to Bilbao, but its close proximity to New York puts it in a very large population center with a strong tourist business. Further, the suite of programs Ive outlined is unlike either the museum in Bilbao or the 24-acre park in Chicago, but, with two museums and three park-garden spaces, combines elements of both. Thus it is difficult to generalize from those cases to that of Jersey City. Further, we need to take into account the graffiti effect. Graffiti is an international phenomenon, especially among the young, but not exclusively so. A destination that legitimizes graffiti in the ways outlined here would thus have tremendous appeal to an international population, one that will grow in the future. Jersey City thus has a unique one-time opportunity to capitalize on an unrecognized cultural asset and establish itself as an international destination. With these factors in mind, I have prepared a crude estimate of potential tourist revenues. Using the Chicago figures of $300 per day for international overnight stays and $150 for domestic stays, I have added a third figure of $50 per day for day visitors. I have then calculated gross annual revenues assuming, respectively, 50, 100, 200, and 500 visitors per day in each category (for a total of 150, 300, 600, and 1500 visitors per day). Note that even 1500 visitors per day is only 500,000+ per year, which is less than the number of people who visit Guggenheim Bilbao. The table below shows the resulting tourism revenue:
50/day international overnight domestic overnight day trip TOTAL Annual Gross Revenue $300 $150 $50 $5,400,000 $2,700,000 $900,000 $9,000,000 100/day $10,800,000 $5,400,000 $1,800,000 $18,000,000 200/day $21,600,000 $10,800,000 $3,600,000 $36,000,000 500/day $54,000,000 $27,000,000 $9,000,000 $90,000,000

Crude as it is, this estimate doesnt take account of increases in real estate values, nor new businesses attracted; thus it does not even begin to represent the potential economic benefits of these projects. Beatriz Plaza, The Bilbao Effect, Museum News, September/October 2007, 13-15, 68.

Scholars on Bilbao, articles on cultural investment and development: Page 15

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Gordon Anderson, The Milwaukee Effect, CNN Money, August 2004:

Edward K. Uhlir, The Millennium Park Effect: Creating a Cultural Venue with an Economic Impact, Economic Development Journal, Vol. 4, No. 2, Spring 2005.


Finally, let us imagine a Grand Opening to anoint this area when it has had a chance to develop. I have chosen 2020 as a target date because it is far enough in the future to allow for graceful development yet not so far that is it an impossible dream. It is thus an appropriate time for Jersey City both to consolidate its status as the sixth borough and to celebrate its own unique identity as an international center and artistic hub. Just as the eastern end of the Sixth street embankment is near the historic Powerhouse, so the western end of the Erie Cut is near the current Powerhouse. Accordingly, the city should invite Cristo or some other suitable artist to create a project that runs from one powerhouse to the other along the corridor that has been constructed on old railroad rights of way. We could have a grand parade of skateboards on Route 139, a thousand or more, and live music from around the world all along the way. It would be a fitting way to make Jersey Citys emergence as a major cultural center.


Perhaps the most problematic aspect of this strategy is learning to think of graffiti as an assert, rather than an annoyance. As I have indicated above, this is not the place to make that argument. I have made the argument into some essays I have listed in the appendix, and there are many books available in which the argument is made. I note, for example, that Harry N. Abrams, Inc., a prestigious publisher of coffee table and scholarly art books, is now publishing graffiti books. When I looked for one of those books Graffiti World by Nicholas Ganz at the large Barnes and Noble in Union Square, I couldnt find it; though I subsequently found it at an Urban Outfitters store in that neighborhood. Only a year later that same Barnes and Noble has two bookshelves devoted to displaying graffiti books, cover out; and the bookstore of the Museum of Modern Art has a significant graffiti display. Jon Naar, who published the first important collection of graffiti photographs in 1974, has since republished those and many other photographs in The Birth of Graffiti. He recently spoke at the Museum of the City of New York, along with graffiti artist William Nic One Green. Graffiti Expert Susan Farrell has informed me that the mayor of Taipei, Taiwan, was so impressed with the quality of graffiti at five city parks that he recently declared graffiti to be legal in those parks. Jersey City should do likewise. Finally, in 2011 the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles organized a major exhibition around graffiti and street art. That exhibition broke all attendance records for individual shows and doubled the number of people who visited the museum that year. I observe, however, that, except for the graffiti museum, none of the projects I have proposed depends directly on graffiti. Graffiti, after all, is just paint on walls. The walls can be built without the paint. Why, then, take the risk? I do not think there is any risk at all, though no doubt some residents of Jersey City may be
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offended by the inclusion of graffiti in these projects. The reason for emphasizing graffiti is that, as I have indicated before, there is a large international group of people who like graffiti. Some of them paint graffiti, many of them buy graffiti books, but almost all of them wear shoes and clothes that have been influenced by graffiti style, buy CDs with graffiti style art on the covers, use graffiti-embellished sports equipment, and so forth. Graffiti is here to stay. Further, incorporating graffiti into these projects, Jersey City has an opportunity to attract donations and sponsorship from music companies, apparel companies, sporting goods manufacturers, and others. While the City must certainly be prudent and circumspect about such sponsorship, the opportunities are there and should be carefully explored. Finally, the new skate park gives the City an opportunity to test the graffiti effect early in the development process by hosting an international graffiti jam, perhaps as early as the Fall 2008. If it fails, it fails, but little or nothing has been lost. If it succeeds, then Jersey City will be on the threshold of international acclaim.


For the last year I have been photographing graffiti within walking distance of my apartment, which is one block north of Hamilton Park which is by no means the only significant graffiti in the city. I have perhaps 5000 graffiti photos online at under the name STC4blues. For the most part, I have organized the photos by location. This is the URL (web address) for my sets of graffiti photographs:

The photos in the following set have been linked to an online map which thus outlines the geographical extent of the graffiti Ive been photographing:

Here are the photos of the Hoboken Ave. skate park that is in the process of being demolished:

One of the locations proposed for a new skate park is beneath the thruway behind Brunswick at roughly 8th street. There is a lot of graffiti under the thruway just north of that site:

I have also written a three-part article about this graffiti. The first part is a general introduction, including some very brief historical comments: Graffs in the Hood 1: The Story:

The second article analyzes a few pieces, considers whether or not graffiti is art, and assesses its general importance:
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Graffs in the Hood 2: Analysis: The third article is a guide to my online graffiti photos. At the end I have a brief guide to general material about graffiti, including online sites: Graffs in the Hood 3: Guide to Photos, Sites, and Links

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