In 2011, New York City began uprooting its traditional parking meters, having decommissioned the lot of them in the years before. They were replaced by the single-stand parking station, where you buy a ticket to put in your car showing that you’ve paid. They pulled up hundreds from curbsides, but removal efforts stalled, and by 2013, thousands were still left in place. Some gutted by city workers, others vandalized, more left to simply weather, they were an icon of urban life.
In 2013, Queens-dwelling artist Conrad Stojak turned a few dozen of the relics into tiny art galleries and gardens. He put tiny sculpted landmarks into the domed tops, made them into scenes with toy figures and glue. In those that had been broken open by vandals, he planted flowers.
“Parking is a negative experience in New York City — this re-imagines them into something better,” Stojak told The New York Post at the time.
All we have now of those original parking meter transformations are photos – the city destroyed or removed all of them as efforts to de-meter-ize the sidewalks continued. But Stojak is on the art-path again. This time, he’s purchased a bouquet of meters from the city and is installing them in his studio space in 4 World Trade Center (which he got by donating a parking meter sculpture of the WTC to the property).
His new sculptures are growing ever more detailed. Some are solar powered, lighting his artwork like tiny living cities. Others are wifi-enabled, allowing anyone with a smartphone to bring the artwork to life.
He doesn’t want this project to stay in a studio, though. Parking meters belong on the sidewalk, and they belong everywhere. His goal is to make this project of tiny ship-in-a-bottle-style art one of the largest urban public artworks of all time, by replanting the transformed meters as thoroughly through-out the city as possible.
So far, Stojak has raised a little more than $2000 of the $25,000 he thinks he’ll need. His fundraising campaign at RocketHub runs through November 18.