Grove St.’s birdy little secret: Arty birdhouses

A stained-glass birdhouse blends in with its surroundings. Photos by Scott R. Axelrod

BY SCOTT R. AXELROD | Grove St. may be known to many a ’90s-nostalgic tourist as the place to pose in front of the “Friends” building. But the five blocks that stretch from Hudson to Christopher are also home to a collection of unique birdhouses on both sides of the quiet, tree-lined street.

“I had a dream that Grove St. became the block with the beautiful birdhouses,” said Richard Eric Weigle. An award-winning documentary film producer, Weigle has lived on the block for more than 40 years, and has served as president of the Grove St. Block Association for the last 17.

That dream took flight more than a year and a half ago, as Weigle and his husband, Michael Anastasio, have since hung roughly 20 pieces of what can be considered feathered-friend-friendly art, with the intention of surprising residents and passersby as if they’ve suddenly become involved in a scavenger hunt.

Many of the houses come from the couple’s personal collection, including a piece from Holland and a pair that they decorated with beach glass, tile and stones that they collected during a trip to the Italian coastal city of Positano. Others were sent by friends from Amsterdam and donated by other local residents.

“Of course, it was a couple of gay guys who came out to make the block beautiful,” Weigle joked.

Anastasio is an interior designer, and he and Weigle also are the organizers of the Greenwich Village Film Festival.

Anastasio, who has served as the primary installer of the birdhouses, pointed out that each one has to be hung just high enough to remain out of reach, but low enough to be seen. To date, only one of the houses has flown the coop, which Weigle and Anastasio blame on bad weather, and not a roving gang of birdhouse bandits.

“Everyone seems to love them,” Weigle said. “If someone didn’t want one in front of their house, we would relocate it. They’re supposed to bring joy, not drama.”

Direct from Amsterdam, the “Bondage Birdhouse.”

To dramatic effect, many of the birdhouses have been strategically positioned so that they’re virtually color-coordinated with the buildings they’ve been placed in front of, as if they were sold as a set during some surreal real-estate deal. Others are almost completely camouflaged by their surroundings, appearing as if they’re growing out of the trees they’re attached to, or are an optical illusion popping out of the buildings behind them — like those pictures where you have to blur your eyes and stare through to see a hidden image. The leather-strap-adorned house that hails from Amsterdam is a highlight of the collection that one simply just can’t stop referring to as “The Bondage Birdhouse.”

Michael Anastasio, left, and Richard Eric Weigle sit on the steps of their Grove St. apartment building. Weigle is holding a birdhouse.

While the birdhouses of Grove St. are all but hidden in plain sight, Weigle conceded that he’d rather not clutter the street with any new installations for the time being. Although, it should be noted, that he said this while carrying around a house that he brought down from his apartment and was scouting locations for the entire time.