Flatbush tree signs up for freaky-deaky refurbishment

Vital signs: Flatbush resident Josiah Charles says the highly visible signs are overdue for the rehab a local artist is planning.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

These bummed-out trees are about to get a trippy paint job.

An artist is raising money to fix up the decaying, tree-shaped Flatbush Avenue sign that welcomes people to neighborhood and to give it a psychedelic makeover. Dave Eppley lives in the area and said passing the fading markers day after day bugged him.

“I saw a dilapidated thing that I thought could really be fixed up,” said Eppley, a Flatbush resident of six years. “It was decaying. I think there were once animals living in it.”

Eppley plans to cover the sculpture at Empire Boulevard and Ocean Avenue with thousands of five-sided, multicolored vinyl flowers. Each flower will contain seven shades of a given color, he said.

Eppley, a former teacher, said he wants to partner with local schools to enlist kids’ help.

“I’m excited to see the quirkiness and imperfections kids will add to the project,” he said. “This isn’t just about me and the artwork, but about drawing in the community.”

Eppley has spent a year trying to get the okay from the Department of Transportation — which is supposed to be responsible for maintaining the signs — and Community Board 9, he said.

Last fall, the transportation department granted Eppler $2,000 as part of its public art program, but that is barely enough to cover insurance costs, Eppley said. The online fund-raiser he launched recently is seeking almost $10,000 in donations to cover materials and construction equipment. A local gadfly who is helping him with the fund-raiser said that, believe it or not, the project will cost $14,000 altogether.

“Most people probably don’t know how much this stuff costs,” wrote Tim Thomas, who runs the blog The Q at Parkside and is a member of Community Board 9. “There will be no ‘leftover’ money, but even if there were, we’d use it to beautify the area around the Trees and bank it for maintenance.”

The drive had raised close to $1,500 by Wednesday afternoon. Neighbors we quizzed said it is about time the signage got some love.

“I think it needs to be brightened,” said Josiah Charles. “The colors are faded. It needs to be colorful again.”

The Flatbush Avenue signs were erected in 1979, but according to Eppley, no money was set aside for their maintenance. Rather than having his graphics last decades, Epply said he would like for other artists to come along in the next several years to make their own marks on the landmark.

“I want to make it very clear that this is owned by the community,” he said. “The only part of it that is me is the brightly colored tape.”

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at nhurowitz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz
Far out: A rendering shows Dave Eppley’s multi-colored vision for the Flatbush trees signs.
Courtesy of Dave Eppley

More from Around New York