In a city of unrelenting — and often unwanted — change, street artist gilf! has found a new way to remind us of the driving process behind disappearing small businesses — gentrification.
On Wednesday, the Stage Restaurant announced it would permanently close after 35 years in the East Village. The restaurant had been shuttered for a year due to a dispute between its owner, Roman Daikun, and its landlord over illegal gas siphoning.
Daikun announced on the restaurant's Facebook page that the legal dispute was resolved, but the restaurant would not reopen due to "the cost to make the repairs and expenses of reopening" on his Facebook page.
Soon after the announcement, "GENTRIFICATION IN PROGRESS" tape resembling police caution tape was wrapped across the storefront, Bedford+Bowery reported. The tape is one of a series of "tape attacks" from female street artist and activist gilf! to draw attention to the small businesses, and the cultures they represent, dying in New York City.
Gilf! also taped over Williamsburg's Nita Nita last December and St. Mark's Trash & Vaudeville — which recently left its St. Marks Place home — according to her Tumblr. Two years ago, Gilf! made headlines when she draped "GENTRIFICATION IN PROGRESS" tape over the white-washed graffiti hub 5 Pointz.
Gilf!, whose name is Ann Lewis, wrote in her artist statement that she is interested in the "power dynamics of society and the intended or unintended consequences when shifts in power go unchecked."
The power shift she is targeting is the encroachment of big chains in New York City and the resultant displacement of small businesses.
"When you displace small businesses in this manner you participate in the transferring of wealth from the 99% to the 1%," she told Gothamist in response to her taping of Nita Nita. "The Small Business Survival Act needs to be passed immediately. The unique culture of New York City is transforming into a strip mall with less parking."