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Mural Hung at Bushwick Flea Market Sparks Outrage at 'Hipster Transplants'

By Serena Dai | September 18, 2015 5:33pm | Updated on September 21, 2015 8:59am
 A crochet mural by London Kaye at Bushwick Flea sparked outrage after the property's owner said flea owner Rob Abner never got permission to use the wall.
Bushwick Flea Crochet Mural
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BUSHWICK — A large crocheted mural hung on a wall adjacent to the Bushwick Flea market this summer without the building owner's permission is sparking outrage from locals who say the move reeks of "hipster transplant" entitlement.

The Wes Anderson-inspired piece, by crochet artist London Kaye, was installed on an outdoor wall at 56 Wyckoff Ave., a building next to the flea market at the corner of Willoughby Avenue.

But Will Giron, whose aunt owns the building, said Kaye and Bushwick Flea owner Rob Abner never asked for permission to put the work up.

Technically, the mural does not constitute criminal vandalism because there was no damage or intent to cause damage to the property, police said.

After Giron spoke with Abner last month about taking it down, Giron said Abner was rude and yelled at him, displaying an attitude common to "hipster transplant" gentrifiers in the neighborhood, according to a lengthy Facebook post Giron wrote about the situation Tuesday.

Giron claimed Abner also responded by saying "we've just raised your property value" and that he threatened to call police on Giron's aunt for selling Salvadoran food from her front yard, "something she's been doing for years and is well loved in the community for doing," the post said.  

"Now consider the sense of entitlement, privilege, the blatant lack of self awareness, and condescending attitudes towards people of color," Giron continued in the post. "Consider the fact that it's art when white people put up murals on private property but when we create our own art in Bushwick it's considered 'vandalism.'"

The post exploded online, earning more than 1,500 shares and dozens of comments largely decrying Abner and Kaye.

"The situation isn't about the art itself," Giron told DNAinfo New York on Friday. "It's about, especially with mad gentrification in Bushwick, how someone has the sense of privilege and entitlement to put something up on someone's private property without asking."

Abner admitted in an interview that it didn't occur to him to ask the property owner for permission to put up the work.

He assumed the owner didn't live in the building, and since the crochet work wouldn't permanently impact the property, he didn't think it would matter to either the property owner or tenants, Abner explained.

"I honestly didn’t think anyone would care," said Abner, who noted that he grew up in Queens and is not a transplant.

He also denied yelling or cursing at Giron.

"I explained to him a bunch of things," Abner said. "I said that there was a junkyard there. We cleaned out the junkyard. There were rats living there. We cleaned it out."

Kaye, who lives nearby, said she had no idea Abner didn’t contact the building owner before allowing her to put her work on the wall and assumed he had received permission.

“I would have never invested so much time and resources on this project if I knew it wasn’t legal,” she said of the project, which took her two months to complete.


Welcome to Moonshine Kingdom #londonkaye #yarnbomb #streetart #bushwick

A video posted by London Kaye Crochet (@madebylondon) on

The art itself is attached to the wall with a soft adhesive and can easily be taken down, Kaye said.

But the fact that work didn't damage the property, or that the flea market cleaned up the area, doesn't matter to Giron, who was born and raised in Bushwick.

Giron, who works as a tenant advocate and legal coordinator at The Fifth Avenue Committee, said it matters more that Abner felt like he could put it up without asking.

Now, Giron feels better that his screed is spreading the word about gentrification, he said.

"I felt powerless, like there was nothing I could do," he said. "Me posting on Facebook was a means of venting and expressing not only what I see in the neighborhood, but in my work every day."

Both Abner and Kaye were bombarded with negative comments online after the post was shared, with people calling them "white b---hes" and "hipster garbage."

Abner said he sent an email apologizing to Giron after their phone call, but Giron said he found it too aggressive and didn't respond.

Kaye, who noted that she makes a living as a crochet artist, said she now knows to ask multiple sources for permission before embarking on such a large project and to be more conscious of the audience.

She plans to take down the mural in the coming weeks no matter what happens between Abner and Giron.

"I don’t want there to be a bad taste in the neighborhood," she said.