Street Artists Give Washington Avenue Graffiti A Slick Summer Upgrade

By Sonja Sharp on June 18, 2013 10:02am 

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  Central Brooklyn's Park Deli wants to lure Brooklyn art lovers out of the museum and into the streets.
Washington Avenue Graffiti Upgrade
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PROSPECT HEIGHTS — Spray what you want about it, graffiti just got a whole lot more popular in Prospect Heights. 

Two years after a devastating fire there, the vacant lot at the northwest corner of Washington Avenue and St. Johns Place has become one of the neighborhood's most photographed spots, thanks to a team of street artists who transformed its plywood exterior three weeks ago. 

"There's definitely a lack of this kind of stuff around here," said Park Deli owner Michael Sclafani, who secured permission use the wall and recruited the artists to paint it. "I'm on that avenue all the time, and seriously every time I go by somebody’s taking photos."

The Washington Avenue eyesore isn't the only local spot slated for a makeover. Sclafani said he's already recruited another artist for a mural on another neighborhood wall — though for the time being, he won't say who or where. 

"There's a lot of vacant space around," Sclafani said. "The wave of the future of graffiti is not so much about going and smashing the whole city, it’s about painting a backwoods alley and putting it on Instagram and people will go see it."

Despite the sweat he spends organizing them, Sclafani doesn't take a direct role in the murals themselves. Except on Instagram, where the artists gave him plenty of shout-outs, his fingerprints aren't visible on the work at all. 

"I think people know me as the guy who used to make graffiti, and I’m not shy about saying it," he said of his role in the process. I’m not with any organization, I’m not affiliated with anybody. I'm doing it because I like getting walls done." 

For the business owner, it's about quietly shaping the neighborhood into something that's going to lure visitors from the Brooklyn Museum into the streets. 

"If you get some mural with some local school kids, that’s sweet and all, but that’s not going to attract people, not in this day," Sclafani said. "There’s legit good walls done in Williamsburg and we need some of that over here."

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