The Cube Is Gone. But Soon It Will Spin Again.
Good morning. It’s Tuesday. The Astor Place cube disappeared during the night. We’ll find out what happened. We’ll also look at closing arguments in the civil trial involving the writer E. Jean Carroll’s allegation that Donald Trump raped her.
Credit…Jason Szenes/EPA, via Shutterstock
The Astor Place cube — which has spent most of its 56 years twirling cheerfully — was hauled away during the night for repairs. A crane, a flatbed truck and a couple of city agencies assisted with the getaway.
It won’t be gone long. It expected to return in midsummer after a round of much-needed repairs at a foundry in Connecticut that fabricates and fixes sculpture.
The refurbishing, estimated to cost $100,000, will be paid for not by the city but by the estate of the sculptor who created the cube in 1967, Tony Rosenthal. Dave Petrie, the director of Rosenthal’s estate, said he was “concerned about the state of disrepair” the cube had fallen into. It has not been spinnable since 2021.
“The thesis was, we want to do this,” he said. “The cost wasn’t the issue. We want Tony’s legacy to live on.”
He and the city’s Department of Transportation, which is responsible for the cube and 21 other art installations around the city, said the restoration would let it rotate freely again. That will bring back the wondrousness of a giant urban plaything, an 8-foot-cubic installation that Rosenthal initially imagined as only a temporary piece.
It stayed put long after the scheduled remove-by date because people in the neighborhood petitioned the city. “Rosenthal’s artistic vision in the 1960s has managed to capture the imagination and spirit of the whole East Village community for decades,” the transportation commissioner, Ydanis Rodriguez, said this week.
The cube, formally known as “Alamo (Cube),” was mentioned in travel guides and figured in a play. The website Curbed summed up its unshakable place on the landscape by saying it had spent “more than half a century being spun by drunk N.Y.U. students and curious tourists.”
So people noticed when the cube stopped twirling, and not just drunk N.Y.U. students.Petrie said in an interview that the spinning mechanism had separated from the base. He also said that an inspection had found a few small holes in the cube’s Cor-Ten steel skin.
Department of Transportation officials said last year that there was another problem: Like the Tower of Pisa, it was leaning.
The repairs will straighten it up and spiff it up with five coats of paint, Petrie said. “It will look like a brand-new car,” he said. “We know it’s got, say, 500,000 miles on it.”
Petrie said the cube had been “embraced by people,” sometimes literally, for generations. “It’s not just a piece that you look at and admire,” he said.
Rosenthal himself once called it “a very friendly object.” (He died in 2009.) And Rodriguez said this week that the cube is “best enjoyed when it is touched and spun with friends.”
It was first called “Sculpture in Environment,” but Rosenthal’s wife, Cynthia Rosenthal, renamed it because it was massive in ways that reminded her of the Texas fortress. It was the first of several large Rosenthal installations in the city, among them “Rondo” (1969), a gleaming bronze circle in front of the New York Public Library branch at 127 East 58th Street, and “5 in 1” (1973), outside One Police Plaza, a name that was said to take into account its five interlocking steel disks as well as the city’s five boroughs.
The cube has needed work before. It was taken away in 2005 when it had the same problem it has now — it could no longer be spun easily. The same fabricator that will do the restoration this time tended to it then, and among other things, found that water had collected inside, in the corners of the cube. Workers removed rust and unclogged drainage holes that water was supposed to escape through. Cross beams were added to the base, reinforcing it. It underwent another restoration in 2014.
Prepare for a chance of showers on a partly sunny day, with temperatures near the mid-60s. The evening is mostly clear, with temps near 50.
In effect until May 18 (Solemnity of the Ascension).
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A Trump case goes to the jury
The civil trial over the writer E. Jean Carroll’s allegation that Donald Trump raped her is moving toward its end. The case goes to the jury today.
On Monday, one of Carroll’s lawyers focused on something that did not happen during the two-week trial: Trump did not testify in his own defense. He did not even show up.
“He never looked you in the eye and denied raping Ms. Carroll.” the lawyer, Michael Ferrara, said.
“You should draw the conclusion that’s because he did it,” Ferrara added.
Trump’s lawyer, Joseph Tacopina, said there was no reason for the former president to appear.
Still, Trump loomed over the trial. Carroll’s lawyers played a video deposition in which Trump repeated his denial of Carroll’s allegations. “It didn’t happen,” Trump said on the video. “It’s the most ridiculous, disgusting story. It was just made up.”
That was the essence of the defense argument. Tacopina asked the jury to believe not that what happened in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room one evening in 1996 didn’t constitute rape, but that nothing had happened at all. He asserted that Carroll and the witnesses she called to corroborate her account had simply made up the story, as did the women who testified that Trump had also sexually assaulted them.
“You can hate Donald Trump. But there’s a time and a place to do that — a ballot box,” Tacopina said on Monday, adding, “What they want is for you to hate him enough to ignore the facts.”
Before the jurors begin deliberations, the judge, Lewis Kaplan, will instruct them on the law. Carroll filed suit under a new state law that provided a one-year window for adult sexual abuse victims to sue their alleged abusers.
Because the case stemmed from a civil suit, Trump will not face any criminal penalty if the jury finds him liable. Carroll is seeking damages, including punitive damages, for battery — the assault — and defamation, based on statements Trump made when he called the case “a complete con job” and “a Hoax and a lie” on his Truth Social platform last year.
Ice cream on a cold day
I was walking on Columbus Avenue on a cold afternoon when I suddenly had a strong desire for an ice cream cone.
As if in answer to my thought, a lovely ice cream shop appeared almost immediately. I went in and ordered a double.
When it came time to pay, I realized I had only a $20 bill. When I offered it, the young clerk told me he had no change. Then he shrugged and said I should just take the cone for free.
I felt the universe had smiled on me twice — a delicious cone when I wanted it and at no charge.
As I rounded the corner enjoying my treat, a dapper older man called out to me to say the cone looked delicious. When I confirmed his impression, he asked where I had gotten it.
When I told him, he said he had seen the place 100 times but had never gone in.
“I’m going there right now and getting a big cone for myself,” he said.
It made me feel like the universe had smiled on me again.
— Cheryl Vichness
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.
Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.
Melissa Guerrero and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].