2017 will mark my eighth year living New York, with five of those years spent residing in various parts of Brooklyn. What was once a county of kings has essentially been reduced to an exorbitantly-priced region of artisanal mayonnaise stores, CITI bikes that take up all of the parking and a level of gentrification so fast that a block will change appearances every few months.
Still, there’s some aspects of the Kings County which are a reflection of the “golden” days. I live a stone’s throw away from a giant mural of Ol’ Dirty Bastard which adorns a bodega wall on Putnam Ave and Franklin Ave, and up the street another massive piece of art — the one you see above — pays tribute to The Notorious B.I.G., and rests on Bedford Ave and Quincy Ave.
Titled “King of NY,” the mural was created by Naoufal “Rocko” Alaoui and Scott “Zimer” Zimmerman in 2015 and had become a crowd-attracting staple in Bed-Stuy since. Now, in a cruel twist of irony, the landlord — who originally green-lit the mural to be painted on his building’s wall — wants to tear it down. Because, gentrification of course.
According to DNAinfo, landlord Samuel Berkowitz plans to remove the mural to add more windows and “increase the property value,” planning to increase his rent profit by $500. Berkowitz also claims that his neighbors (gee, I wonder what kind of “neighbors” they are) complain about the mural and the “crowd it attracts.”
A quick glimpse of its Instagram geotag will tell you all you need to know about the “crowd” it attracts: tourists, neighbors and even a group of runners of all ages, most of whom are Black.
In a phone interview with the local news, Berkowitz said, “Why should I keep it? I don’t even see the point of the discussion. I could demolish the building if I wanted to, I don’t need no permission from anyone except the DOB.” Spread Art NYC, an art collective supporting the mural’s artists, also stated that the landlord offered to keep it up for $1,200 a month, but the organization is unable to sustain that cost.
So, naturally, another landmark in Brooklyn will be taken down in the name of money, and I can’t say that I’m entirely shocked by it. I mean, the “Bed-Stuy” that Big himself lived in is now called “Clinton Hill,” and the house he grew up in was remodeled and sold for millions a few years ago. While this news is disheartening, supporters of the mural shouldn’t feel too defeated: there are several other B.I.G. murals throughout Brooklyn, most notably the one on the corner of Fulton and South Portland in Fort Greene.
UPDATE: Spread Art NYC has announced that the mural will not be removed.
Happy to report the mural is staying! Thx to building landlord & Brooklyn community for uniting to preserve this important piece of art pic.twitter.com/Kr9Cb4aNvM
— Spread Art NYC (@spreadartnyc) May 22, 2017
Thank you Brooklyn! And a very very special thanks to the landlords for recognizing the importance of Biggie in this neighborhood! First we would like to thank both the Mayor's and congressman Jeffries offices for reaching out and offering all kinds of support to keep this iconic mural where it is! We also would like to thank every single local organization for coming forward with their resources . We would like to thank all the companies for offering financial support. ATLANTA has got so much love for Biggie! Thank you TI @troubleman31 for having your team contact us on a daily basis to get the updates. Special thanks to Mr. Guevara from @brooklynnets for the daily phone calls to make sure we get all the needed resources. We would like to thank all of you who have stood besides us! PLEASE if you see the landlords, THANK them for this generous gift to our community!! ! Happy Belated Birthday, King!!! 🎂@tyanna810 @cjordanwallace @therealfaithevans #spreadloveitsthebrooklynway #spreadartnyc #bedfordandquincy #20bigyears