Parkchester is one of three planned communities built by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in New York City, and possibly the prettiest of the three thanks to its spacious, tree-lined walkways and distinctive terracotta sculptures that adorn many of its buildings.
The development was aimed at middle-class white families (Black families were excluded until 1968). However, being labeled as “affordable housing” for first-time owners did not mean the buildings could not be beautiful. In addition to the Streamline Moderne façade of ground-floor structures like the first Macy’s branch store, many of the residential buildings were adorned with terracotta plaques and sculptures by artists like Raymond Granville Barger, Joseph Kiselewski, Carl Schmitz, and Theodore Barbarossa.
Some sculptures are painted in full color, while others are monochromatic. They depict men and women in various poses and situations or different animals like horses and bears. The various artworks can be found above many of the building entrances, or higher up on the corners of the structures.
There are over 1,000 sculptures throughout the entire complex, though in recent years around 45 of them have been removed with their fate unclear. The management companies that run Parkchester (North and South) claim the artworks were suffering from disrepair and have been put into storage, though no public plans for their restoration and return have been forthcoming.
Know Before You Go
Take the '6' train (express or local) to Parkchester and walk up Metropolitan Avenue. The artworks sit above many of the main entrances of the apartment buildings, and can be seen from the sidewalk.