Pieces for ‘Mosaic Man’ benefit are coming together


By Lincoln Anderson

Defying the oddsmakers, the benefit for Jim Power, the East Village’s “Mosaic Man,” is still on for Tues., Feb. 16, at Theatre 80, at 80 St. Mark’s Place, from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.

So said Power himself the other weekend as he was touching up one of his tile-encrusted street lampposts at Second Ave. and St. Mark’s Place, part of his q“Mosaic Trail” of currently more than 60 lampposts. For years now, his consuming goal has been to renovate his existing lampposts, and bring their number up to 80 to complete the quirky urban art trail.

“I got approval for 80 light poles. The theme is ‘Around the Village in 80 light poles,’” Power explained. But he added, “To be honest, I don’t know if it will be done.”

The money raised at the benefit will hopefully help him finish the trail, but he said the event’s real aim is “to bring the community together.”

Featuring a large American flag made of broken tile pieces on its west side and storied names like “Minsky Brothers Burlesque” on its east, the St. Mark’s pole was a combination 9/11 commemorative/Yiddish theater homage.

As Power worked, his ever-present canine sidekick, Jesse Jane, who was wearing an industrial-strength dog coat, tried to sleep on a small blanket on the sidewalk, shivering a bit. At one point, Power got a friend, Rachelle Pashkin, he was chatting with, to get a bag of inexpensive but delicious lamb lungs for Jesse Jane from the Ukrainian butcher across the street, which quickly perked up the “Mosaic” pooch.

Patting the flag on the pole, Power stated everything he does is to exacting standards, noting he’s from a line of builders. It’s his 26th year doing his street mosaics in the East Village.

He said he was stressed out because he still had not finished the plaques for the four honorees who will receive awards — including Ray Alvarez of Ray’s Candy Store on Avenue A, blogger Bob Arihood of Neither More Nor Less, a Police Officer Porcelli and Brian Shebairo of Crif Dogs.

Also, Power — who has struggled with chronic homelessness over the years — had just recently left Kelly House, up on 127th St., supportive housing run by Common Ground, where he had landed a room. He had a problem with another resident over the neighbor’s late-night music; there was a confrontation and Power’s “glasses went flying,” he recalled of the tense situation.

But Power, 62, with another reporter’s help, quickly landed a temporary living spot in a Midtown commercial space — the whereabouts of which he asked not to be publicized — and is continuing his work there. Some of his cracked-tile-encrusted coffee tables are selling for $2,000. But he said a requirement to get an operation to fix his badly ailing hip is permanent housing. He still hopes to get an apartment through Common Ground in a project the group is building on E. Houston St.

“Ultimately, I’ve got to get back in the neighborhood,” he stated.

Power was happy to report that Undead guitarist Bobby Steele and the Bowery Boys will perform at his benefit.

“They’re punk — but they’re not like Leftover Crack; they’re more like ‘Unsmoked Joints,’” Power said of the Bowery Boys. “Purple Pam will sing with them.”

Eden Brower, of the traditional blues group Eden & John’s East River String Band, told The Villager they’ll also be able to perform, since they’re not leaving for their tour until three days after Power’s event.

With music, movies — one including the “Mosaic Man” — the awards honoring community members for their sheer “endurance,” Power said, “It’s going to be a serious event. … Maybe we’ll get Conan O’Brien,” he quipped.

Actually, Jay Wilson, a former City Council candidate, will emcee, and his band Blonde Boy Wilson and the Chosen Frozen will perform.

“Jim Power needs to keep working on his life’s work,” Wilson said. “Challenges such as hip surgery and the lack of a stable residence make it hard for Jim to realize his tremendous and compelling ambitions. Jim Power is a genius, and — as Keith Richards said about the late Billy Preston — ‘comes with all the baggage of genius.’ We can expect an incredible show that represents the East Village in all of its effulgent glory. The Mosaic Man, like Ray and and the recently removed toy tower on Avenue B, is a defining force of our endangered Arts Community.”