New Mural in Park Slope Puts Traffic Justice Front and Center

Vision Zero mural. Image courtesy Groundswell
Click to enlarge. Image courtesy of Groundswell

By the end of the month, people loading food into their cars at the Key Food on Fifth Avenue and Sterling Place in Park Slope will have a great view of a new mural about safe driving.

Photo: Stephen Miller
Julia Jong, 20, works on the mural. Photo: Stephen Miller

The project, funded in part by NYC DOT, puts Lady Justice front and center, fixing a stone-cold stare at a texting driver. The scales of justice weigh an automobile and New Yorkers walking and bicycling across the street. Opposite the texting driver stand families of traffic violence victims at a rally. In the background is an intersection featuring a protected bike lane and a dedicated bus lane.

“We wanted to show the different aspects of the Vision Zero campaign,” said Marc Evan, the artist leading the project for arts non-profit Groundswell. “They wanted us to take a creative approach to a very heavy subject matter.”

Groundswell has worked with DOT since 2009. In another project this summer, the organization is painting a mural about drunk driving on the side of a Food Bazaar supermarket in the South Bronx. Groundswell also painted the street safety mural on Atlantic Avenue beneath the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

“This is the first year that we are doing specifically a Vision Zero mural,” said DOT Assistant Commissioner of Education and Outreach Kim Wiley-Schwartz. “We’re trying to use any tool in our arsenal for culture change.”

Groundswell has hired a group of students from the city’s Summer Youth Employment Program to bring the mural to life. To develop the design, Evan and the students used a Vision Zero curriculum from DOT, got hands-on with a speed gun, and attended a vigil in Union Square organized last month by Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets.

The students also spoke with Sofia Russo, whose 4-year-old daughter Ariel was killed by an unlicensed driver fleeing police in 2013. “That was the most powerful part for me, seeing Sofia Russo come in and talk about her daughter,” said Julia Jong, a 20-year-old student from Jamaica working on the mural. “We heard a lot of stories about people who lost family members and friends to these crashes, and the drivers didn’t really face consequences for what they had done.”

“The figure of Lady Justice became a really big focal point for us that actually wasn’t in some of the earlier designs,” Evan said. Among the people walking on the scales of justice is a little girl wearing butterfly wings and cowboy boots — an homage to Ariel Russo added after the students met with her mother.

The mural will stand 25 feet tall and 45 feet wide, covering the third and fourth stories of a north-facing wall at 138 Fifth Avenue, whose owner volunteered the space. The acrylic paint is expected to last well over a decade. “It’s a great wall. It’s a very visible spot, and it gets a lot of pedestrian and vehicle traffic,” Evan said. “It’s a perfect spot for this message especially.”

Students are working four days a week on the mural until its dedication on August 28 at 10 a.m.

This post has been corrected with the correct time and date for the mural dedication.

  • There’s something poetic about sticking this above one of the most oversized sore-thumb surface parking lots in Park Slope.

  • Ghost of JSK

    “The acrylic paint is expected to last well over a decade.”

    Awesome! Now can DOT use the same kind of paint to redo the bike symbols on 5th Avenue? They’re almost completely gone!

  • Kevin Moore

    Vision Zero? Please! de Blasio enough with the empty symbolism. Enforce current laws before overreaching. Been biking NYC for 20 years. The last year has been the worst for careless drivers and speeding. Its like the wild west out there.

  • BBnet3000

    And on the part of 5th Avenue that doesn’t have a bike lane (not that the part with a worn-off and mostly blocked bike lane is much better).

  • BBnet3000

    It’s times like this that I think we might have a chance of reaching a “Stop the Kindermoord”-style critical mass, at least in certain neighborhoods.

  • Bluewndrpwrmlk96

    This is a great mural! It sends a powerful and important message, while making unique use of contrasting colors. Great work, Julia, keep it up! 🙂


Tonight: Traffic-Calming Mural Preview & Fundraiser

In the Gowanus section of Brooklyn, a group of teenagers is transforming a drab, cinder block wall into a three-story mural to memorialize three children killed on dangerous Third Avenue and to remind motorists to drive safely. The mural is being organized by Transportation Alternatives and Groundswell Community Mural Project and painted under the guidance […]

Kids Demand Respect in the Streets of Brooklyn

A rendering of a mural proposed for Butler St. and Third Ave., one block from the Brooklyn intersection where a 4-year-old boy was killed by the driver of a Hummer in February. "A lot of drivers are driving recklessly and not seeing people as people," said 18-year-old Mike. He was one of a group of […]

Anonymous Bike Lane Opponent Scores Media Coup on NY1

Will we ever see the headline "Bike Lane Opponent Resorts to Misinformation and Lies"? Image: NY1 This report on the proposed Prospect Park West bike lane from NY1’s Jeanine Ramirez doesn’t quite stoop to Marcia Kramer levels of fabrication, but that might make it even more insidious. Slap together a few shots of ill-informed people […]

City Promises $5M in Ped Safety Improvements at Mural Opening

The mother and grandfather of James Rice. With weeping family members and the ghostly, smiling images of three boys watching over them, city officials and elected representatives joined 100 community members on a Brooklyn street corner Tuesday evening to pledge "Not one more death."   State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Assembly member Joan Millman and representatives […]