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Inwood Artist Told his Controversial Work Needs NYPD Clearance

By Carla Zanoni | July 26, 2012 7:53am

INWOOD — An artist who had his anti-cop mural removed from the wall of a private building by the NYPD was told police need to give permission before he can replace it.

Graffiti artist Alan Ket said the landlord of the Inwood building where his work has been on display for more than five years told him his art now needs to be approved by the NYPD.

“This wall is being censored by the NYPD,” Ket told DNAinfo New York over the phone Wednesday afternoon.

“I told him I found it kind of strange he would feel he needed to get approval or permission or run anything by the police, but he said that he doesn’t want any problems with the police, that the police are a bit threatening,” he added.

Ket’s painting, that called police "murderers," was removed by a pair of plainclothes officers who arrived at the New Edition Cleaners at 4929 Broadway at 11 a.m. Tuesday armed with buckets of black paint, roller brushes and drop cloths.

They were carrying out orders issued by the 34th Precinct, according to police sources.

The mural, which showed the word "murderers" painted over tombstones and coffins with epitaph names that included the NYPD, the Environmental Protection Agency and global corporations including Halliburton and Monsanto, had been painted on the wall of the business with the permission of its owners.

After the incident, Ket, who has had permission to paint murals on the wall for at least five years, said he asked the landlord if he could paint the word “censored” on the coat of glossy black paint that now covers his original art.

The landlord said no.

“It’s a little bit crazy,” Ket said.

The building’s landlord, who would only identify himself as Victor, said he is willing to work with Ket on replacing the mural, but would no longer allow him to spray paint just any image on the wall.

“They were nice paintings before, but the new painting was very offensive,” he said. “I don’t agree with it and neither do the police.”

Inwood residents said they were appalled at the removal of the mural and said aesthetic or political preference should not weigh in on whether the mural remained or was removed.

“If they had to censor something, why didn't they just cross out the tomb stone with NYPD,” wrote Inwood resident Rosemarie Kliegman on Facebook's Inwood Community Group.

“What the hell is the thinking here and where does any cop have the right to do this? They don't pay attention to the First Amendment?” she continued.

Despite the overwhelmingly negative response to the mural’s removal, not all Inwood residents opposed the NYPD's action.

“Let's just say that nobody would like a wall painted about them and their job, that is a bold lie,” wrote John Garvey on the site, identifying himself as a former cop.

“To lump all cops as killers is wrong.”