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Controversial Piano District Billboard Defaced with Paint Splatter

By Eddie Small | November 10, 2015 12:16pm
 Three splotches of paint have appeared running down the center of the controversial Piano District billboard.
Three splotches of paint have appeared running down the center of the controversial Piano District billboard.
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DNAinfo/Eddie Small

SOUTH BRONX — The controversial Piano District billboard in the South Bronx has been defaced with a trio of paint splotches.

The sign by the Third Avenue Bridge, which bears the logos of developers Somerset Partners and The Chetrit Group, proclaims that part of the South Bronx is now the Piano District and promises passersby that "luxury waterfront living" is on its way to the borough.

Several locals have scorned the billboard as a harbinger of pending gentrification and expressed their anger with the hashtag #WhatPianoDistrict. Three blots of brown and white paint recently appeared running down the center of the sign, suggesting that somebody decided to show their frustration with the attempted rebranding in a different way.

Ed García Conde, founder of the blog Welcome2TheBronx who is considering a run for borough president, questioned whether this was The Bronx's version of the Boston Tea Party in a post he wrote on the incident.

He spotted the paint on Monday morning and, while he acknowledged that some would view this as an act of vandalism, he described it as an act of civil disobedience showing that the developers behind the Piano District push are not welcome in the neighborhood.

"To me, that’s a strong message," he said, "and that message is that the people of The Bronx are really united against this, and we’re not going to take this fight sitting down and twiddling our thumbs."

Keith Rubenstein, founder and principal of Somerset Partners, did not respond to a request for comment.

Mychal Johnson, a longtime environmental advocate for The Bronx, said the paint represented an attempt to deal with the fears that people have about what is happening in the neighborhood.

"We need to make sure that we try to provide the proper venue for expression where it doesn’t come out as vandalism, I think," he said. "But I can’t say that their actions were inappropriate."

Bronx Community Board 1 District Manager Cedric Loftin said that, while he understands why residents are nervous and frustrated about potential changes coming to the neighborhood, throwing paint on the billboard is not a good way to show this.

"I don’t think anyone should deface any property or any type of advertising that anyone has put up," he said.

"There is a way to express one’s displeasure with things that are occurring, but it is not in the defacing of advertisements."

Lifelong Bronxite Jonathan Marin echoed these thoughts, describing the paint as a poor response to the sign that could just end up reinforcing some negative perceptions people already have about the borough.

"It’s damage against private property," he said. "It’s not necessary and definitely an overreaction."