Waterfront OY/YO sculpture comes to Williamsburg
by Benjamin Fang
Jul 18, 2017 | 3664 views | 1 1 comments | 134 134 recommendations | email to a friend | print
New Yorkers gazing at the Brooklyn waterfront will once again have the chance to say “Yo!”

The popular “OY/YO” sculpture has officially moved to Williamsburg’s North 5th Street Pier and Park. Last Thursday, artist Deborah Kass joined Douglaston Development, the Parks Department and elected officials to welcome its return to the waterfront.

“People love art, people love parks, it’s a natural blend,” said Brooklyn Parks Commissioner Marty Maher. “This particular piece is so very appropriate for Brooklyn and so very appropriate for this spot.

“The best way to get to a Brooklyn part, of course, is by ferry,” he added. “As you arrive in Brooklyn, it says ‘Yo!’ As you leave Brooklyn, it says ‘Oy!’”

The sculpture’s first home was Brooklyn Bridge Park in DUMBO from December 2015 to September 2016.

The idea to relocate the piece to Williamsburg came when Randi Levine, commissioner of the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian, visited Kass at the former OY/YO spot near the Brooklyn Bridge.

Kass told Levine that the sculpture, which has become a social media sensation, needed a new home. Levine then worked with her husband, Jeffrey Levine, chairman of the real estate company Douglaston Development, to help make the move possible.

After working with the Parks Department to get the proper permits and conducting all of the necessary landscaping and engineering, the sculpture officially opened on Thursday.

It will remain on view through July 2018.

“Nothing in this city happens without a lot of hard work and a little magic,” Randi Levine said. “This was an intricate and complex maze of coordination and collaboration among the Parks Department, the artist, the gallery, development and construction and elected officials.

“The true beneficiaries are the Brooklyn residents, who will enjoy this fantastic installation from all its vantage points in all of its languages,” she added. “I know it will be received with the same level of celebration and excitement that it had at its last home.”

Kass, now living in Boerum Hill, said she’s thrilled that OY/YO, which refers to the Spanish word for “I am” and the popular Yiddish expression, will welcome ferry riders, Brooklynites and New Yorkers alike.

“I’m looking forward to the welcoming it will receive from the diverse communities that make up our town,” she said. “Now the wedding photos, quinceaneros, graduations, class pictures, family shots, tourists and selfies can all resume.

“I know the attraction to this piece is literally because it speaks directly to each one of us,” she added. “These two letters and these two words, we can see ourselves and each other at the same time.”

Deputy Borough President Diana Reyna also celebrated the sculpture, which she said showcased “the movement of arts and culture in Brooklyn,” and exemplified why people are so interested in the borough.

Reyna grew up in Williamsburg and previously represented the area in the City Council.

“It’s wonderful to see people coming together to regard our waterfront and our community,” she said. “To be able to place what is just two letters that can really sync two communities together, it cannot get any less complicated.”

Douglaston Development’s Jeffrey Levine is also a Brooklyn native. He father was also born and raised in Williamsburg.

“You can take the boy out of Brooklyn, but you can’t Brooklyn out of the boy,” he said. “It has never left us and we will never leave it.”
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Frank Knarf
September 11, 2017
"Yo" is just "I". "Yo soy" is "I am."