In general, “Art imitates life,” but sometimes it is the other way around. That is the case when it comes to Brooklyn mural “Not One More Death.” Painted in the summer of 2007 by artist Christopher Cardinale at Third Avenue and Butler Street in Downtown Brooklyn, the mural was dedicated to the memory of children who had been killed in road accidents. The deaths were especially prominent at or near crosswalks. The mural was painted in partnership with a mural-supporting non-profit group called Groundswell, and an advocacy group which works to reduce fatal car accidents, called Transportation Alternatives.
At the ceremony that took place on the day the mural was dedicated the Department of Transportation announced it was going to put into place new traffic measures along Third and Fourth Avenues to slow things down a bit. They added curb extensions and other devices, and now, ten years later, there are speed bumps, 20mph signs, and cameras watching for speeding cars. The mural has the distinction of being one of the first times street art worked to persuade government to respond immediately and tangibly to a serious neighborhood issue.
“When we focus on children who were lost in needless preventable traffic crashes, it galvanizes everyone’s advocates, cities and the public to understand how important it is to re-envision our streets where families are,” Kim Wiley-Schwartz, assistant commissioner for education and outreach at the DOT, said. “It’s very fair to say that [the mural] was a catalyst for the conversation and has kept the dialogue going with the community.”
Not many people know what Brooklyn looks like to a bird, but one muralist wanted to bring that special, elevated viewpoint to the pedestrians standing on the ground. Artist Vince Ballentine began designing a mural featuring the Brooklyn Bridge in December, 2016. Now the mural is finished and is available for viewing for anyone visiting at or living in Flatbush Gardens, an apartment complex at 1402 Brooklyn Avenue.
Ballentine says he wanted to paint a scene that was a true reflection of the special aura of Brooklyn.
“Let’s say if you were in one of the top floors at Flatbush gardens — that might be something you’d actually see,” said Ballentine, a resident of the neighborhood. “But being that not everybody gets that type of bird’s-eye view, why not bring that same angle down to a lower level where everybody can enjoy the same panoramic view that somebody way up in Flatbush Gardens is seeing?”