It would be practically impossible to mention Eddie Boros, a charismatic, sometimes cantankerous artist from the East Village, without describing his most ambitious work, a looming sculpture made of scrap wood and salvaged objects that rises 65 feet above the southern end of the Sixth Street and Avenue B Community Garden.
Mr. Boros’s sculpture rises 65 feet above the southern end of the Sixth Street and Avenue B Community Garden
The wood of the ramshackle tower is aged and graying. The flotsam suspended from it includes a string of red and white buoys, toy horses and a statue of the Virgin Mary. Mr. Boros called it the toy tower, but others likened it to a psychedelic treehouse.
Mr. Boros died on Friday at 74, and now his sculpture will be the most visible reminder of his long presence in the neighborhood.
A wake was held yesterday for Mr. Boros at a funeral home on East Seventh Street, but before that, members of his family visited the garden, where photographs of him were taped to a tall iron fence and candles sputtered in the breeze.
â€œHe had a great soul,â€ said one of Mr. Borosâ€™s nieces, Helen Boros, 50, from Massapequa on Long Island. â€œHe was a very giving man.â€
She said her uncle had undergone surgery to have both legs amputated below the knees at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Manhattan in the winter. He had been recuperating at a veterans center in St. Albans, Queens, but was taken last Monday to Mary Immaculate Hospital in Jamaica, where he died.
His relatives said that Mr. Boros was born, and until recently, lived in an apartment on East Fifth Street. He served in the Army and worked delivering ice and painting apartments. But he was always an artist, and the Avenue B sculpture was his masterpiece. And its mere survival over more than two decades has elevated it to the status of neighborhood institution.
Mr. Boros began constructing the sculpture on a 4-by-8-foot garden plot in the early 1980s, initially as a form of protest because the gardenâ€™s founders wanted to relegate him to one plot. Before the garden was formally organized, he had been using a bit of empty space on the site to work on wood carvings. For years, Mr. Boros added to the structure until the base expanded to cover six times the original space.
Not everybody was pleased that Mr. Boros had turned a significant chunk of the garden into an outdoor folk art studio. As the sculpture rose, some gardeners accused the artist of insubordination born of bitterness. There were angry meetings. In the early 1990s, some of the garden members spearheaded an effort to evict Mr. Boros and his sculpture. In the end, they settled for an agreement in which Mr. Boros accepted a height limit.
As time went by, the sculpture became a local landmark. People used it as a meeting place, and feral cats used it as a home, climbing their way through the intricate interior of the piece. Sometimes, Mr. Boros himself was known to clamber to the top, where an American flag flew. He sat there, like a lookout on the Pequod straddling a spar, while surveying the streets and skyline.
A documentary featuring Mr. Boros was broadcast on PBS in 1998, and for a time, an image of the sculpture was among opening shots of the television show â€œNYPD Blue.â€
In recent years, Mr. Borosâ€™s health declined and he quit climbing. Instead, he could sometimes be seen sitting near the sculpture in a folding chair and chatting with visitors.
Yesterday afternoon, a garden member, Pat Russell, gazed up at the sculpture.
â€œItâ€™s given so much to this garden,â€ she said. â€œItâ€™s been a talking point for strangers walking by and for longtime neighbors.â€
By COLIN MOYNIHAN – Published in the New York Times: April 30, 2007