This door comes imbued with local Brooklyn history. It’s a history embedded in the story of gentrification. It was originally part of a red brick building in the heart of Bed-Stuy on a block situated between two housing projects, which at night are illuminated by the intense light from NYPD portable surveillance units powered by loud obnoxious gas powered generators. It was a classic Brooklyn building, with two brick smokestacks and two giant wooden water towers. On one of the smokestacks was the name of the place: “Cascade Laundry”. They served as familiar landmarks for many people who grew up here for more than a century.
Cascade Laundry was founded in 1898 and the building was built in 1904. It was founded by a Ukrainian immigrant named Charles Bonoff who had a reputation for hiring recent immigrants and people who lived in the neighborhood. Upwards of 300 people lost their jobs in 2010 when the factory was shut down. Previous to that, it was a thriving family business which housed it’s own electrical power plant. It never relied on Con-Ed for power!
Cascade had to shut down in 2010, due to being bankrupt by a lawsuit brought by several local restaurants which claimed a price fixing scandal.
Since then the entire 9 buildings which encompassed the factory have recently been purchased for $27 million by an investment group named Alliance Private Capital Group which describes itself as a “boutique commercial real estate consultant”.
They started demolishing Cascade Laundry last month. I noticed that the demo workers were not given any kind of safety gear & the whole neighborhood has been engulfed in questionable clouds of dust for weeks. I spoke with the building manager, Julio and he told me that he’d save my door for me. Julio had been working at Cascade Laundry for 30 years, so he was happy to defy the new building owners and save the door for a local artist. He warned me that it had already been slightly damaged by one of the heavy equipment machines used to tear down buildings. You can see the mark on the upper right side of the door made by the mechanical claw grabbing at it. So, I waited for about three weeks. It became obvious that while Julio wanted to help me retrieve the door, he had developed a pretty debilitating case of arthritis in his legs. So, last week, my friend and I decided to take matters into our own hands, so to speak. Armed with a pair of pliers and a portable angle grinder, we managed to liberate the door one fine Sunday afternoon without being apprehended by the law.
I had been pasting up on this door for several years already. You can see the previous layer underneath along with my tag “lmnop” which pre-dated the additional “i” on my name. This painting was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement which originated in Ferguson, Missouri last year in response to the police murder of Mike Brown. I have been doing a series of street paste ups around this movement. I sourced this image from a google image search of protests. Shortly after pasting it up, our local street art blog Brooklyn Street Art posted a photo of it on their Instagram. The next day I was contacted by someone who told me a friend had seen the post and recognized her son, Myles as the kid in the painting! Tracey McEver is a DC resident & activist who brings her kids out to protests. She was pleased to see her son immortalized on a wall in Brooklyn.
The wheatpaste of Myles was much loved by local residents. Often I would observe people taking photos of it on their way to work. I saw many people post it on Instagram. It even survived a local graffiti bomb squad who came through last winter during a snowstorm. They tagged up the entire wall, but did not touch Myles. It was up for at least 8 months before someone decided to deface it with silver grey spray paint. Luckily, I spotted the tag, which covered his face, the next morning. I was able to quickly and effortlessly remove the crappy tag with mineral spirits and a rag. You can still see the metallic paint around his head and his face has a bit of grey residue left on it from the mineral spirits interacting with the paper.
This door contains still more local Brooklyn history. Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who last December made his way to Brooklyn after shooting his girlfriend Shaneka Thompson in Maryland, ran by this door in his attempt to flee his crime after he shot the two officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos on the corner of the same block. He ran by this door on his way to the subway on the other corner, where shortly after he was shot and killed on the Myrtle/Willoughby G train platform.
We’ve rescued this door in the hopes of preserving a little piece of history away from the ever encroaching and voracious entity that is gentrification. In order to lighten the weight of the door, which was at least 200 lbs, we did an intervention on it with a plasma cutter, removing the inside half of the door and installing hanging hardware on it.
~Lmnopi 2015 Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn