mural at Brooklyn Academy of Music

The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) gained access to the city-owned vacant lot at 31 Lafayette Avenue for use as a bike park and art installation in 2013. 596 Acres NYC Team had a great meeting with BAM’s Chief Financial Officer Keith Stubblefield this week and learned about the process of turning this recently vacant lot into a beautiful community resource.

BAM is a cultural institution; that status gives it access to the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA). DCA describes themselves like this:

“The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs is dedicated to supporting and strengthening New York City’s vibrant cultural life. Among our primary missions is to ensure adequate public funding for non-profit cultural organizations, both large and small, throughout the five boroughs.”

BAM was for many years situated directly across the street from a City-owned vacant lot, an eyesore that became all the more conspicuous as BAM underwent its DCA-supported facelift in the last few years. The City-owned lot was under the jurisdiction of the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, a department that holds title to City-owned land and assigns it to agencies like Housing Preservation and Development, Parks and Recreation, Police, Fire and Cultural Affairs so that those departments can create places that fulfill their missions. When a lot is assigned to DCAS, that means that no mission-driven use has been identified for it yet. The BAM team verified with DCAS that the Department had no plans for the lot and started the two-year process of getting access.

Mr. Stubblefield and his team took advantage of BAM’s cultural institution status and invited DCA to cooperate with them in a land access campaign. The BAM team initiated the invitation with a proposal to DCA; DCA in turn requested that DCAS transfer 31 Lafayette to DCA jurisdiction and DCAS made the transfer.

Once the transfer was complete, they submitted the same proposal package, with an emphasis on the design of the space to Brooklyn Communtiy Board 2. Community Board 2 approved the design, the last step in getting permission to put up the piece. The Community Board’s letter is below.

The BAM team plans to maintain art installations (giant canvas paintings) in the space, with bike racks designed by David Byrne in front, just directly across the street from their theater.

If you’re part of a cultural institution and you would like access to DCAS-owned land please be in touch. The 596 Acres Team will support you and BAM management is willing to help us connect the dots. 

February 20, 2013

Signe Nielsen, President
Jackie Snyder, Executive Director
Public Design Commission
City Hall, Third Floor
New York, New York 10007

Dear Ms. Nielsen and Ms. Snyder:

Community Board 2 has reviewed and made a determination on a proposal by the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), in coordination with the Department of Cultural Affairs, to install a wall on the city-owned property at 31 Lafayette Avenue for the rotating display of art. It is also proposed that bicycle racks designed by David Byrne, configurable to spell words, be installed in front of the mural wall, which will be if approved across the street from BAM’s Peter Jay Sharp Opera House.

BAM presented the design to the community board’s Youth, Education and Cultural Affairs Committee on January 23, 2013. After discussion, the committee voted unanimously (7-0-0) to recommend the Public Design Commission approve the design.

On February 13, 2012, the community board voted unanimously (39-0-0) to ratify this recommendation. In the case of both votes, a member of Community Board 2 who is an employee of BAM recused herself from voting.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment.


John Dew


Hon. Letitia James, New York City Council

Keith Stubblefield, CFO and VP of Finance and Administration, Brooklyn Academy of Music

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