Street art pieces displayed in a gutted room of a house

Residence Gone Rogue: A Visit to Street Art Mecca First City Project

I was recently watching one of those ingenious Southwest Airlines commercials—you know, one of the ones with the whole “Wanna Get Away?” taglines—and found myself unconsciously mouthing the words, Hell yeah, I do. We’re big believers that you can get away from the city without getting away from the city. But if you really do, literally, want to get away from the city, there are a number of incredible options that don’t require you to take a flight or even leave the state for that matter. Recently, we discovered the perfect day trip getaway with a visit to First City Project.

Corner of an empty room featuring colorful painted walls, ceiling and fireplace at First City Project via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Fireplace by @JPOart, Walls by @reme_821 @karenbystedt and @joemaccreative
Artwork by SacSix featuring Amy Winehouse in Statue of Liberty hat with cartoon pigeon on her shoulder at First City Project via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Amy Winehouse and Mr Poop. Artist @sacsix
Painting of a woman with the text "Failure leaves such a bitter taste in my mouth" next to it at First City Project via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
“Failure leaves such a bitter taste in my mouth”. Artist @diegoagc
Picture of Lynn and Justin in front of a colorful wall by Fumero at First City Project via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist @fumeroism

Located just a little over an hour away from Manhattan in Glen Cove, New York, First City Project is located in a historic structure that was once residence to one of the town’s five original families. The JH Coles Homestead is a designated landmark with roots tracing back to the 1690’s, but the once venerable and long abandoned home had suffered from years of neglect, falling into serious disrepair. This is when a local businessman, Joe LaPadula, stepped in with a new vision for the town’s once beloved crown jewel: to become a world class showcase for cutting edge urban art from acclaimed New York area artists as well as those from around the world.

The ambitious art program was not without early detractors from within the small community. There were concerns about traffic, parking, and whether the outsiders the project would attract would change the aesthetics of small town life. But Mr. LaPadula was undeterred, reaching out to the town’s leaders and partnering with the larger community to move the project forward. Now the Long Island city of Glen Cove is embracing its role as a unique art destination, with new sculptures and murals popping up around town.

Room with vaulted ceiling and exposed beams with colorful painted walls and ceilings and bicycle in the middle of the room at First City Project via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: Infa
Sticker with a sketch of a lady's profile with the words "You're Beautiful" below at First City Project via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
“You’re Beautiful” Artist: @sashalynillo
Justin standing in a painted corridor with a large mural of two eyes behind him at First City Project via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist @masoneve
Stairwell with colorful painted walls surrounding the doorway at the bottom at First City Project via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Artist: @avisualbliss
Illustration of a person in a cat suit holding up a sign with a heart and the words "Life is good!" written on it at First City Project via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
“Life is good!” Artist @hirakunyc

The structure’s three distinct floors are covered floor-to-ceiling with an array of murals. Even the limited furnishings are adorned with various works of art. Its exterior has been whitewashed and redecorated for numerous events, bringing new meaning to the term “a fresh coat of paint”. Wandering the house provides greater insights into the history of the structure, its place in the town, and the artists who have contributed to its rebirth. Having covered Bushwick Collective, Welling Court Mural Project, and numerous other street art destinations throughout New York City, we can attest that First City Project is a welcome addition to a growing number of sites showcasing an important emerging artistic movement that will continue to influence art and culture long into the future.

Currently, a visit to First City Project is facilitated by appointment or through a tour with the New York Adventure Club  (who has aptly nicknamed it The Graffiti Mansion). But be sure to follow First City Project on Instagram and Facebook to be notified of upcoming pop-up events, like fun partnerships with the Brooklyn Flea.

149 Glen St

Vary by appointment and/or through a tour

Pair it with:

A meal in nearby City Island

Mint green and pink storefront with windows full of tchotchkes on City Island via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Blue house with red window frames and bicycles and a motorcycle in the yard on City Island via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

City Island Diner corner storefront with green roof and a view of the sidewalk and other stores via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

You may have heard of City Island before. It’s a Bronx fishing village with a reputation, after all. The good: it’s a seafood utopia. The bad: It can be very touristy. Both are true. But since you’re already outside Manhattan, why not hop on the Cross Island Parkway and make your way to this tiny island? Of foremost prominence, the entire area is the idyllic home of private beaches and some handsome shoreline views. Of course, there are also a tremendous number of restaurants in the area, both along City Island Avenue and throughout the small island community. Pretty much whatever your heart desires—you’ll find something here.

Giant neon fish over and colored lamps over a table of diners in Sammy's Fish Box restaurant on City Island via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Plate full of fried seafood including shrimp, squid and scallops with rice and corn on the cob in the background at Sammy's Fish Box on City Island via Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Most people come for seafood, though. And sure, you can find some higher end restaurants that specialize in “pretty” seafood, but what you’ll find in abundance are restaurants with a little more humble, homestyle focus. Sammy’s Fish Box is a classic example of this, where giant platters teeming with fried or broiled seafood and more sides than you could finish are the specialty. And the kitschy decor only lends to the vibe. Think of it as Red Lobster on steroids. But know that even in the off-season, these spots are popular with the locals. So come early, or be prepared to spend some time hanging out with the lobsters in the glass case.

41 City Island Ave

Sun – Thu 11:30 am – 2:00 am
Fri-Sat 11:30 am – 3:00 am

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– J.

8 thoughts on “Residence Gone Rogue: A Visit to Street Art Mecca First City Project”

  1. This was a fantastic post with some really great pictures (that fireplace is too cool!). Reminded me of “Art in the Streets” at MoCA in Los Angeles – one of the best art exhibits I’ve ever seen, where the curator basically just invited a bunch of street artists – including Mr. Brainwash and Banksy – to create/display works inside of an old warehouse set up specifically for the purpose – an interesting intersection between legal/illegal, art/”pop” art, public/private. Anyway, I just took Kyle and Charlie to the Bushwick Collective last weekend, which they both loved (in between Charlie not giving AF ;)). We will have to check this out though – would be a great escape from the city!

    1. Thanks, Lauren. It’s a huge compliment coming from you. So jealous you attended “Art in the Street” and Lynn and I loved our visits to Bushwick Collective. In fact, when the weather improves, we intend on visiting again. I definitely hope you plan a visit to First City Project. Without a doubt, it’s worth the short trip away from the city.

  2. Great post. It continues to amaze me how you and Justin find such incredible and interesting art venues. we really enjoy them

    1. Thanks, Tip! Honestly? We sort of stumbled upon it. We were looking to take a day trip in the vicinity and happened upon it while we were doing some research online. Turned out great. Hope you get the chance to check it out yourself.

  3. I’m glad someone is taking care of the building, but I have to say I’d probably be happier with something less jarring inside. Not a restoration, because I’m not crazy about those, but, well, to each his taste. I love street art on the streets, just not sure I like it inside a building with that much history. But good for Mr. La-Padula for championing something that I can imagine was a hard sell in Glen Cove, and good for you for finding it and getting out there. 🙂 Here’s to exploring!

    1. Hi Lynn. I completely understand the sentiment. I guess my approach to the concept was more about the benefits of taking a neglected space and making it accessible to the community, as well as outsiders, in a new way. Would I have ever known about the history of this town without this project? Probably not. As for street art being better suited for the streets, there’s definitely an argument to be made there. At the same time, a movement changes over time. For better or worse, as it gains acceptance, it’s “place” becomes less and less of a limiting factor. No doubt, there are many views on this topic, and I’m not sure exactly where I land on it yet myself.

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