A diverse inner suburb just north of the Bronx, Mount Vernon, N.Y., has long been a city divided. But a site-specific new public sculpture has been installed in the middle of town with the ambition of helping to heal an old civic wound.
In the 1890s, in response to pedestrian deaths at street level, the tracks of the New York & New Haven railroad line were lowered into a trench, known as the Cut, which sliced through the heart of Mount Vernon along First Street. Unlike New York City, which covered over its own sunken tracks north of Grand Central Terminal in the early 1900s to nurture the flourishing boulevard of upper Park Avenue, Mount Vernon left its tracks exposed, dividing itself into two unequal halves: the more prosperous, suburban North Side and the poorer, and ultimately more urban, South Side, which adjoins the Bronx.
The Cut created an invidious and enduring “environmental redline,” Mount Vernon’s mayor, Shawyn Patterson-Howard, said in an interview. “It was redlining before the banks started redlining.” Larger homes, larger yards, most commerce, City Hall, the hospital and the courthouse are all located on the North Side, while subsidized housing, senior housing and many fewer businesses have been built on the more densely populated “other side of the tracks.”
Heavy D and the Boyz, whose 1980s hit song gave the city its latter-day nickname “Money-Earnin’ Mount Vernon.”
Mr. Fox’s artwork “really captured the changing facing of Mount Vernon, with all the different ethnic groups,” said Daniel Frett, a lifelong Mount Vernonite and a trustee of the Westchester County Historical Society. “The Jewish groups, the Italians, the Portuguese, the Brazilians, and the people from the Caribbean who have moved in.”
sign up here. Follow us on Twitter: @nytrealestate.