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Beloved Mural Painted Over During Shooting of Liam Neeson's New Film

By Nigel Chiwaya | May 14, 2013 10:03am | Updated on May 16, 2013 10:28am
  Community members are giving two thumbs down after a beloved mural was painted over for during filming.
Mural Removed for Liam Neeson Film
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HUDSON HEIGHTS — Uptown residents are giving Liam Neeson's newest movie two thumbs down after a beloved mural was painted over during filming earlier this month.

Scenes for the action hero's new movie — "A Walk Among the Tombstones," set to be released next year — were shot in the neighborhood on May 4 and 5.

But the film's crew painted over the mural, which had been a staple on the wall outside Hilltop Pharmacy at 593 Fort Washington Ave. for almost four years.

The art, which was painted in 2009, channeled the cover of Beatles' album Abbey Road and read "All You Need Is Love." But crews covered it up after saying the image didn't fit with the early-90s period setting of the movie.

 Scenes from Liam Neeson's new movie, "A Walk Among the Tombstones," were shot in Washington Heights.
Scenes from Liam Neeson's new movie, "A Walk Among the Tombstones," were shot in Washington Heights.
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Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images Entertainment

"Unfortunately, because the project is a period piece, we sometimes have to change out signage that may not match the aesthetic of a certain neighborhood during a certain time period," David Ginsberg, the film's location director told DNAinfo New York.

Members of Fresh Youth Initiatives, the Washington Heights nonprofit whose teenage members painted the mural back in the summer of 2009, only found out the mural had been painted over after the crew left town.

"No one sort of alerted us," said Maria Herrera, a spokeswoman for the group. "I'm on the local parent listserv and people were asking, 'What happened to the mural?'

"My stomach just sank," she added.

Herrera has since been in contact with members of the movie's production company, who told her it received approval from the building's administration prior to the mural's removal.

"I guess it's important to rewind and realize that the wall that the mural was painted on belongs to someone," Herrera said.

Hilltop owner Amy Sidney told DNAinfo New York that she authorized the painting over of the mural, saying that the wall was badly damaged and that a fresh coat of paint would be the first step in much-needed repairs.

"When the movie came to us it was the perfect time because the wall is so completely damaged," said Sidney, who has owned Hilltop since 1998. "Giving it a fresh undercoat lays good groundwork fixing it."
Sidney also expressed annoyance over the incident, saying that Hilltop — not the community — has paid for upkeep of the wall.
"The damage to the wall the neighborhood isn't even mentioning, but they're mentioning a fresh coat of paint? If the community is so concerned they're welcome to open their wallets."
The film company, Film50, offered to help fund the program's next mural, which will be painted on the wall during the summer.

"We were not aware of how much of an important role this particular mural played in the neighborhood," Ginsberg said. "I am hoping that our contribution to Fresh Youth Initiatives will help encourage those kids to create a new mural the community can once again be proud of."

Back in the neighborhood, resident Jon Marc-McDonald said the mural gave the area character.

"It was just one of the few things — street art, if you will — that made the neighborhood unique," he said. "And to have it painted over for a movie? Really?"