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Local Resident Demands Removal of East 2nd Street Mural (Updated 8:45 p.m.)

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Tats Cru mural on East 2nd Street, just east of Avenue A.

At least one East Village resident is not at all amused about a mural that appeared in the last several weeks on East 2nd Street by Bronx graffiti artists Tats Cru.  This week, longtime neighborhood activist Ayo Harrington contacted Community Board 3 and other local organizations, asking for their help in demanding that the property owner remove the scene.

In an interview this afternoon, Harrington said she noticed the “racially offensive” mural “depicting a shackled African American woman in a jungle scene” while visiting the Chase bank, located at 20 Avenue A.  She immediately spoke with the bank manager, who explained that Chase was simply a tenant in the building.  Harrington said she urged the bank to offer its support in pressuring the landlord, Arm Capital Resources, to take the mural down.

In an email exchange last night, Tats Cru told us, “funny how people just come up with nonsense. This is actually  a marriage proposal where the guy wanted to depict cartoon versions of him and his girlfriend where he is trying to rescue her, sort of saving the princess type of thing. ”

Last spring,  a guy named Jeff Gurwin caused quite a stir (in the blogosphere, anyway) when he proposed to his girlfriend along this same stretch of Avenue A. There’s even a videotape of the (successful) proposal.

Photo via The Village Voice.

Gurwin did commission Tats Cru to paint the mural but, as you can see, it looked nothing like the scene depicted on the East 2nd Street wall today.  In a phone conversation a short time ao, Gurwin told us he has nothing to do with the new mural. It had been his understanding that the work would stay up for a month (it ended up being more like 7 months). On its web site, Tats Cru, posted the new mural on December 10th.  “I was sad to see it was gone but I’m happy that we’ll always have the memories,” said Gurwin a photographer with a passion for shooting street art.

As for Harrington,who’s lived in the neighborhood since the 1960’s and is a longtime community activist, told us the mural has no place on the Lower East Side. “Not only is it racist but it is also sexist and it is upsetting,” she said.  Harrington is African American but said she would be just as offended if the mural had depicted scenes offensive to other ethnic groups. In the past, she has lobbied property owners to remove alcohol and cigarette advertising from buildings in the East Village.

Harrington said she spoke with Donna Elleby, president of CODA, the influential East Village political club, about her concerns. Elleby also contacted the property owner, demanding the mural’s removal.  We called Arm Capital to learn more about the property owner’s perspective. A woman who answered the phone said the only person who could address the issue was unavailable until next Wednesday. She then abruptly hung up.

CB3 District Manager Susan Stetzer has forwarded the complaint to the New York City Commission on Human Rights.

UPDATE 8:45 p.m. Tonight there’s a new twist in this story. it turns out there were actually two separate marriage proposal murals. Here’s the email we received a short time ago:

My name is Adam (Sirois)  and I am the designer and commissioner of the apparently infamous Second St Mural. Thought I would shed some light on the situation: the mural is in fact part of a marriage proposal and homage to my girlfriend and love of my life, Marisha. The title of the piece is Untitled: (man with ring rides chariot pulled by snow leopard to save beautiful woman captured by unruly chow chow with pink lasers coming out of its eyes).

Photo courtesy of Adam Sirois.

Fortunately, Marisha does not have the same myopic and antiquated notions as the community activist referenced in your article, and I am now fortunate to be able to call her my fiancé.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion–especially when something is in the public sphere–and I am sure the individual has done great things for the community over the years. But it is a shame that something bred of love is getting sprinkled with negativity because one individual misconstrued it–a piece of art, no less. Regardless, I just want to make it clear that I was the sole creative director of this mural and Tats Cru only executed my design as requested. They are exceptional artists, legends in the graffiti world and true professionals that I would highly recommend to anyone.

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  1. oh boy, this has a real hot chicks room feel about it.  I think I like Tats Cru, the marriage proposal mural was cute, the past two on this 2nd st wall have been really strange and kind of creepy, I dont want them taken down, I just dont really get them… They def have more talent than Chico for instance, I think they just hurt themselves with these really far out concepts.

  2. he is a good friend of mine and the sentiment was always one of love and commitment.  people are taking PC-ness to the extreme. i can’t help but wonder if Harrington would feel the same way of it was a white woman.  Now who’s racist?

  3. this Harrington woman sounds like an absolute menace. if chase supports her in taking down this wonderful work of art and display of love then I will take my banking elsewhere.  

    i guess romance isn’t dead; you just need to watch out for lonely people with nothing better to do who try to kill it

  4. this is both racist and sexist. Women are strong and equals of men–they do not need to be  saved.  Most of us want an engagement to be a union of equals.
    This couple has a relationship that suits them. However, It should be obvious why this is offensive women who consider them equals of men. And the lack of sensitivity to African American history is mindboggling.

  5. Really, you’re making sweeping generalizations about the state of women
    from a personalized painting of fluffy animals and a woman in cartoon
    christian louboutins? And you’re making inferences on the validity of
    this particular couples’ marriage because the guy went out of his way to
    do something chivalrous? I think it’s cute and unique. Shouldn’t you be
    in orlando picketing Disney?

  6. A play on Andromeda and Perseus?  Also, I totally agree with the depiction of the Chow Chow as the sea monster.  Those are some surly dogs.  I’m guessing the fiance’s cat does not get along with the fiancee’s dog. 

    Anyway, they make a lovely couple.  Congratulations!

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