2006-02-24 / Front Page

Clark Breaks Silence On Tribute Park Dome

By Brian Magoolaghan

The local artist who is responsible for building the Tribute Park dome will open up his shop next month so the public can watch as he works on the overdue monument, The Wave learned this week.

“The Tribute Park Dome ‘Heavens Over Rockaway’ is nearing completion,” artist Patrick Clark announced by placing an ad in this newspaper. “All are welcome to visit the workshop and watch final fabrication of the dome… Observe as the final dome panels are ‘cast’ and the liquid cement is poured into curved dome molds around the hand-faceted slab glass and crystal 9/11 name stars.”

Clark, said he will show visitors how he chips, cuts and facets the colored glass slabs used in the dome, and will hand out free samples of the glass as well.

And despite his consistent refusal to set a completion date, Clark now suggests that the park’s missing link could be finished soon: “The dome work will be done about two weeks after this demo,” he said.

Chamber of Commerce President John Lepore greeted the news this week with an even mix of enthusiasm and surprise. “Well that’s great. I look forward to seeing it,” he said after The Wave told him about Clark’s plans. “We’re pretty much out of the loop on all of this,” he admitted. “But the stage is set for him to finish up.”

This is the first time that Clark has sought to update the public, and perhaps anyone else, on his progress since he broke his contract to deliver the dome almost a month after the park’s unveiling on November 6, 2005. Clark was vague about a completion date leading up to opening day, which brought criticism from members of the Tribute Park Committee who said they thought Clark could have finished in time.

Clark’s relationship with the park committee disintegrated as negotiations with the city Arts Commission brought more and more changes to his original design. Money squabbles and blowing the deadline widened the rift.

Clark hasn’t returned calls from The Wave since October, when he accused a reporter of misquoting him in a story: The Wave reported that he said he might not finish the dome until the day after the park opened to the public; he denied saying that. Clark did not return calls this week.

The dome’s unfinished state did not appear to cast a shadow over opening day as the other parts of the park, featuring two other key pieces of artwork designed by Clark, were very well received under sunny skies and balmy weather. Survivors of September 11 victims, community members, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other elected and government officials gave Clark the loudest applause of the ceremony.

About two weeks later, Clark notified the Chamber of Commerce of the Rockaways and the park committee that he intended to break his contract to finish the dome by December 1, 2005. Clark claimed that the agreement was “rendered moot” because the Chamber hadn’t installed bolts at the top of the dome. Lepore told The Wave that Clark was procrastinating and making more excuses.

The committee subsequently gave Clark as much time as he needed to finish, as long as he agreed to regular inspections so that progress could be assessed. The decision came after committee representatives Dan Mundy and Community Board 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska visited Clark’s workshop unannounced and found more progress than they expected.

Clark also announced that his business, Sunlites Stained Glass, will relocate this summer because the property that houses it, formerly owned by firefighter Eric Allen who was killed on September 11, has been sold. He said “neighborhood gentrification” will end his workshop’s 20-year history at the location, where he says the Rockaway Artists Alliance was founded and stained glass pieces were made or restored for hundreds of local homes and religious institutions as well as prominent locations in Manhattan and beyond.

Clark will host the free open house on Saturday, March 4, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The demonstration will pause while the Rockaway St. Patrick’s Day Parade passes Beach 116 Street. Visitors are encouraged to travel by foot as there will be no parking in Clark’s driveway and traffic will be restricted due to the parade. Sunlites Stained Glass is located in the basement of 117-07 Beach Channel Drive.

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