New mural in local Astoria playground celebrates the neighborhood’s storied history

Photos courtesy of Brittany Baldwin

Elements from the past and present of Astoria collide in a new mural that is currently on view at a local playground.

This month, the New York City Parks Department unveiled “Steinway Cypher” a vibrant and colorful installation by local artist Brittany Baldwin.

The mural covers an 1,100-square-foot retaining wall in Steinway Playground located at 37th Street and 20th Road, and celebrates the history of the nearby Astoria neighborhood through bold, graphic symbolism. The mural took one week to design and paint, with help from several volunteers.

“Brittany Baldwin’s colorful new mural makes Steinway Playground shine. Her love for Astoria and the many businesses and beloved landmarks that make up the fabric of the neighborhood come through in this mural, and we know it will bring a smile to each passerby who encounters it,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver in a statement.

The mural combines the contributions of the Steinway family with elements from present-day Astoria. Business titan William Steinway began building Steinway Village in 1870 in what is now known as Astoria. The town included the famed Steinway Piano Factory, employee housing, a church, a library, a kindergarten and a public trolley line. Steinway’s contributions also lead to the creation of current subway tunnels after a push to extend the trolley lines of his resort town of North Beach under the East River.

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“Steinway Cypher” includes a large, white piano-like shape that sits in the middle of the mural, which commemorates Steinway and his contributions, while the arrows are a nod to his progressive ideas. Aquatic and seashell shapes signify North Beach and the East River. There are also symbols included in Baldwin’s piece that are a response to mosaics seen on Mombar, a beloved restaurant in Astoria’s Little Egypt.

“Steinway & Sons is very proud of its rich history, which is closely intertwined with the history of Astoria, Queens and New York City as a whole. We are honored that Brittany Baldwin, a talented local artist, has chosen to pay homage to this history through her mural installation in Steinway Playground, which is just a few blocks from our historic Astoria factory,” said Steinway & Sons Senior Director of Marketing Anthony Gilroy.

Baldwin was born and raised in Flushing, and has had extensive experience creating and displaying public works of art. She has exhibited murals in First Park in Manhattan and Rockaway, Queens, and received a Barrier Beatification commission from the NYC Department of Transportation in 2016 for her piece “Bounce,” which is installed on Queens Boulevard between Woodhaven Boulevard and 59th Avenue.

“Steinway Cypher” is on view from now until June 2019.

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