Photo via @spreadartnyc / Insta
The two-story mural of Biggie Smalls that has been watching over the late rapper’s home neighborhood since 2015 is likely to be displaced by rising rents. According to an Instagram post by community art organization Spread Art NYC, the landlord of the building on Bedford Ave. and Quincy St. wants $1,250/month to host the mural and not poke windows through it to increase rent, a fee the artists can’t pay
In an interview with DNAinfo, the building’s landlord, Samuel Berkowitz, he expressed a complete disconnect with culture and genuine disbelief at why he should keep the mural: “Let me rephrase the question: Why should I keep it?” he told DNA, “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.”
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
In addition to the sadness of the situation, it also reveals the astounding bureaucracy behind murals. With so much abandoned property still in the city in 2017, it’s shocking that the law of the land has it so artists must jump through hoops and pay an arm and a leg just to have their stunning art “hosted” on the side of a building. De Blasio, if you’re reading this, maybe offer Spread Art NYC the side of one of Brooklyn’s many abandoned buildings, or a portion of the miles worth of scaffolding around the borough to repaint Biggie on.
While there’s no silver lining to a story like this one, there are a lot of other Biggie memorials. His is by no means a hard mug to come by in Brooklyn, even 20 years after his death.
Fort Greene‘s “Brooklyn Love Building” proudly says “SPREAD LOVE ITS THE BROOKLYN WAY” on one side, with a mural of Biggie on the other. Other Biggie-inspired art is well documented by the Christopher Wallace Way Facebook page and Insta. Speaking of, now would be a pretty good time to revive the effort to co-name St. James Place and Fulton St. after Christopher Wallace. (A committee decided Biggie was too fat and a bad role model when they rejected the co-naming in 2013.)
Someone should really throw a funeral for Brooklyn. Let’s hope it’s as lit as Biggie’s.