We all know Biggie Smalls is watching over us from the great beyond, but for the last few years, he’s been watching over New York’s Bed-Stuy from a perch on a residential building.
Artists Scott “Zimer” Zimmerman and Naoufal “Rocko” Alaoui painted a giant mural of Biggie on a building at the corner of Bedford Avenue and Quincy Street back in 2015.
If you live in New York, you’ve probably seen it. Even if you don’t live in New York, you’ve probably seen it
It looks like this:
It has attracted a lot of love, both from Brooklyn residents, and from tourists, who flock to the mural in droves for pictures and selfies.
One person who doesn’t much care for the work of art is Samuel Berkowitz.
Who is he?
None other than the building’s owner. And he wants the mural gone.
DNAInfo reports that Berkowitz plans to cut additional windows in his building’s façade so that the can raise the rent of his currently windowless tenants.
If that doesn’t sound heartless slumlord-y enough for you, here’s a quote.
“Why should I keep it?” Berkowitz asked DNAInfo when its reporter questioned him about the mural, “I don’t even see the point of discussion. I could demolish the building if I wanted to, I don’t need no permission from anyone except the DOB.”
Seeing that money rather than music or art was what filled the space in Berkowitz’s heart, an artist collective, Spread Art NYC, stepped in, offering Berkowitz $5,000 cash to keep the mural.
The landlord wasn’t having that. He came back with a counteroffer: he promised not to destroy the mural if the group paid him $1,250 a month.
Unfortunately, Spread Art doesn’t have that kind of money, and so, as of now, the mural isn’t long for this world.
In an Instagram post, Spread Art told supporters of the mural not to fret, that “Brooklyn is Biggie and Biggie is Brooklyn. A landlord can NEVER change that!”
A few updates on "king Of NY" Mural: we just want everyone to know that Spread Art NYC, your humble community Art organization has been working real hard to keep this mural up for the past year! Landlord always calls us and Claims that the neighbors are complaining about the mural and the crowds it attracts. About 4 months ago, he told us about the construction he will be doing which will damage the mural in the process. He will be opening Windows on the wall to increase rent profit by $500 according to them. Today Spread Art NYC offered $5000 (which we planned to gather from the community and the fans) not to open the windows. Unfortunately, that offer was declined and it was answered by a counteroffer of $1250 a month. At this point, there is nothing Spread Art NYC can do to save this mural. We will continue to serve our neighborhoods regardless!! Community is our goal, we like to give back and we thought A biggie mural at the corner of #bedfordandquincy was needed to keep the culture alive, to keep Brooklyn Alive. We always say, Brooklyn is Biggie and Biggie is Brooklyn. A landlord can NEVER change that! We want to thank everyone for the love! We promise, we GOT YOU!!!💪💯#spreadartnyc #20bigyears #bedstuy #bedfordstuyvesant #biggie #kingofny #livefrombedfordstuyvesant #spreadloveitsthebrooklynway
On the post, users lamented the loss; ladykfever wrote, “Landlords in this city see the value of art, but they wanna jump to the front and steal … when they seen what art has done for their property value,” while planetbklynacademy wrote, “Do not allow them to continue to destroy Brooklyn as we know it. What Brooklyn was once known for is quickly fading away.”
With the demise of the storied 5 Pointz still heavy in the minds of many New Yorkers, this latest destruction of an iconic piece of art is just one more blow in the gentrification wars raging across all of its boroughs.