Bushwick artists say ads and billboards are destroying iconic murals

If these walls could hawk! Big biz offering megabucks to advertise on Bushwick murals

Refreshing?: Bushwick artists say advertising — like this four-story Coors Light ad on the corner of Jefferson Street and St. Nicholas Avenue — is covering up and cashing in on the street murals that have made the area famous.
The Brooklyn Paper
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Corporate America is destroying Bushwick’s famed street murals by offering neighborhood building owners big bucks to cover up artists’ masterpieces with pictures of Coors cans and Sprite bottles, say local artists.

“They are greedy savages who are destroying something special and beautiful in the international art community,” said Joe Ficalora, who is the founder of the Bushwick Collective, the group of street artists that have painted dozens of elaborate murals in the blocks around the Jefferson and DeKalb L stops in recent years.

The al fresco artworks have turned the sleepy industrial area into a magnet for tourists, Ficalora says, and now advertisers are trying to cash in on their success.

“Now that I have attracted thousands of tour groups and children and there are people coming in left and right to see the murals, they are coming in to capitalize on that,” he said

Several building owners in the area say advertising agencies have offered them hundreds of thousands of dollars to cover artworks with painted advertisements or vinyl billboards.

The owner of a building on the corner of Troutman Street and Wyckoff Avenue says the media company Seen offered him $120,000 to host an advertisement on his building for the next five years. The wall it wanted, which is right off the Jefferson stop of the L train, already features a mural by well-known street artists Chris Stain and Billy Mode of two girls smiling and hugging with the words “It’s just begun” behind them. The building owner says he kicked the agency to the curb.

“I told them, ‘There is already something there. Why would you want to destroy that?’ ” said Frank Mattarella, who handled the calls for the company on behalf of his elderly mother.

But other property owners in the nabe have surrendered their exterior wall space to big business. Advertisers recently erected an ad for sneaker company Converse on the side of House of Yes, an aerial arts venue that opened on the corner of Wyckoff Avenue and Jefferson Street last month. Ficalora said the circus folk agreed a year ago to let an artist paint a mural on their building wall once they had moved into their new digs, but when he returned a few weeks ago, they told him they needed to rent out the wall to supplement the venue’s income.

Advertising impresarios say they have as much right as the artists to ask a building owner to use a wall, and if the painters want to keep their work uncovered, they should make better art.

“This is America and I have the right to offer money to put advertising on a wall,” said Philip Kafka, president of Manhattan’s Prince Media Company, which has erected ads for Modelo beer, Skyy Vodka, and mCig vaporizers in the neighborhood. “The artist has a right to make a mural so compelling that the building owner would never think to cover it up.”

The Bushwick Collective says it has helped organize the creation of about around 65 murals in a 10-block radius since 2012. The murals are all legal, and the building owners offer their brick canvases to artists for free, Ficalora said. The artists usually spend their own money to create the works, though the collective sometimes helps to subsidize the costs, which usually run between $1,000 and $5,000 for paint and supplies, he said.

“Some of these artists are saving up for a whole year to do this,” he said.

Bushwick has changed rapidly in recent years, with hordes of hip young newcomers moving into the area, and bars and brunch spots following closely behind. But Ficalora said he plans to keep fighting the neighborhood’s increasingly corporate facade by reaching out to more local property owners and getting murals on as many walls as possible.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her at
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Horchata Suarez from Bushwick says:
These just make me so thirsty! I feel like a 7-up or a Budweisser now!
July 3, 2015, 7:39 am
Florence Weintraub from Windsor Terrace says:
July 3, 2015, 9:22 am
steve from downtown says:
You mean the "Corporate America" who is paying your salary for the newspaper, or the internet and computer you're using right now. How about the 60% tax the building owner has to pay back to government generated from the "Corporate" income. The pigs are people who deface property without permission. Plenty of those, don't you think, Florence ?
July 3, 2015, 9:57 am
jjm from c. hill says:
I say leave it alone. Let the remaining real images of brooklyn be instead of continuing to sell out. This is why some of you moved to bk, for culture. Quit trying to erase it. If you wanna live somewhere dull & boring, how about moving back to wherever you came from? Goodness gracious!!
July 3, 2015, 12:36 pm
jjm from c. hill says:
Its bad enough you fools are trying to turning bushwick into a nearly all-white yuppie utopia with the little bit of black/PR people hanging on by a thread there.
July 3, 2015, 12:43 pm
Choclatina McJammy from Bushwick says:
I agree with jjm - please get rid Of those black Puerto ricans already!
(I'm being sarcastic, if you understand).
I love the local, Urban color they bring. Their culture is so different and rich. You wouldn't believe it, but normal people could learn a lot from their ways.
July 3, 2015, 2 pm
jjm from c. hill says:
But really tho, im one of those people that looks around bushwick with resentment in my eyes because i was a resident at one time on jefferson & irving. It might not mean a darn thing to some of you that moved in over the past 10 years or so ago but for people like me, it a really somber feeling to see a piece of your youth nearly stripped away all in the name of greed.
July 3, 2015, 3:17 pm
Vinny Polack from Greenpoint says:
$120,000 for a 5 year billboard is theft at only $2,000 per month when Times Square billboards go for $2,500,000 per month.
July 3, 2015, 4:20 pm
Matt from Greenpoint says:
Take the money and run, nobody is going to consume that garbage anyhows.
Coors? Are kidding me? How much will they pay me to drink one?
July 3, 2015, 9 pm
b from gp says:
Carl Jung can kiss my arse. I prefer to drink clean water.
July 4, 2015, 4:06 pm
Charles from Bklyn says:
This seems to be a health department issue. Time to make a complaint with the DOHMH.
July 4, 2015, 9:37 pm
b from gp says:
Mr. Manson, They're both appliqué symbols pushing something.
July 5, 2015, 2:06 pm
sankefferin from LIC says:
The street artist murals were as least as boring as these advertisements.
July 5, 2015, 2:56 pm
tvc15 from ex-brooklynite says:
Building owners can do what they want with their property, screw the Bushwick 'artists'.
July 5, 2015, 3:43 pm
Moses kestenbaum ODA from Williamsburg says:
How much can i get for an ad on my BUTT?
July 5, 2015, 11:11 pm
an on from nyc says:
This is how they get you to sell your soul so they can then then own you. Don't let it happen! They will be waving some big money around but be strong and keep your soul.
July 6, 2015, 12:36 am
anon from ev says:
Hey Philip Kafka, you have a right to walk around as a hollow shell of a human but you don't have a right to force others to do the same by stripping them of their culture, neighborhood character and what is theirs. Also your competition scenario is skewed. You say you have the right to use your rich-guy money to put up your ads and in turn the artists have a right to create art so compelling that landlords turn down your money. Let's make this fight fair. How about this -- you create an ad so compelling that the landlord wants to put it up FOR FREE, like they do with the Bushwick artists.
July 6, 2015, 1:04 am
SIRCRONE from Bushwick says:
As a first generation Italian American, I always hated being force fed advertisements from every angle for things i never buy anyway.

I love graffiti. It is a link to the past, and a culture that not only belong to specific races or cultures.

Art is for everyone.

Compelling art from Brooklyn natives that tell a story, is a way more satisfying narrative for the soul, than a lackluster "subliminal" materialistic Capitalist Agenda.

To Anyone ANTI art: Really? you'd rather see a 40 foot beer can, than a well thought out masterpiece by an eclectic artist?

If no one is buying these products, is it really worth destroying the one thing that keeps NY a cultural melting pot?

What will building owners do when the "rich people" leave and all you're left with is blank spaces where amazing art used to be, and none offering the big cash?

NY WILL ALWAYS BE A CULTURAL MELTING POT, as long as the culture stays...
July 12, 2015, 12:30 am
Don Chico from Harlem says:
The biggest offender is a company named Colossal Media . It's ironic their name is being "left out" of most if not all of these articles . The images posted are their ads ! It seems their is a bigger hand being played here . Most of these articles mention the company Seen Outdoor . Who do very little work in bushwick . Hmm .. A bunch of bias blogs later .. Do the math . Clearly a larger outdoor advertisng company tryin to squash competition ... O yea ,
Welcome to New York ——ty .
July 15, 2015, 9:55 pm
Chris from Harlem says:
Joe Ficalora & Bushwick Collective are as dirty as they come.

Hey Joe, how much money did you pocket in corporate sponsorship money this year from YOUR "Bushwick Block Party"?
Aug. 26, 2015, 9:16 pm

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