Tom Birchard: East Village Cubism

August 9, 2011 2:24 PM

"Alamo," better known as the "Astor Place Cube," is one of the most iconic public art pieces in New York City. It has been on display since 1967. Flickr/Jeff Howard

The Astor Place Cube, or “Alamo,” is an outdoor sculpture by Tony Rosenthal that was installed in 1967. Initially it was to stay for only a six-month period, but pressure from local residents eventually convinced the city to keep it. The cube weights just under a ton and spins on its vertical axis.  It’s located just outside of the Astor Place Subway station. It stands at the gateway to the East Village. In March 2005, the Cube was removed for repair and maintenance. Its disappearance caused anxiety in the neighborhood and prompted conspiracy theories that the Cube had succumbed to development and gentrification pressures. Happily, it returned in November that year in better shape than ever. Many people who move to the East Village or New York City come to turn the cube to signal that they have arrived. The Cube was installed at the time when our neighborhood was just beginning to be referred to as the East Village and it has been a symbol of our community ever since.  Along with the Statue of Liberty, the Wall Street Bull and Balto the Dog in Central Park, the Cube is one of the most popular public works of art in the city.


Tom Birchard began working at Veselka Restaurant in 1967 and has been its owner since 1975. He is the father of five children. His wife, Dr. Sally Haddock, owns the St. Marks Veterinary Hospital.

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