"I posted it to share my frustration with my friends," he told us this morning. "I was feeling a lot of anxiety because my aunt felt intimidated." One of those friends encouraged him to make the post public on Monday. "I go to sleep, I wake up, I'm like, 'More than 500 shares!'"
According to Giron, Bushwick artist London Kaye hung her crochet mural over the course of a weekend last month, when his aunt was away in Virginia and his cousins were in El Salvador. Over the summer, Kaye had asked Rob Abner, founder of Bushwick Flea, if she could make an installation on the Girons' wall. (The flea is open weekends on the lot adjacent to the Giron home.) Abner consented, without first asking the Girons for permission. "My aunt wasn't upset about the art itself, but that no one had asked for permission," Giron explained.
Giron, who is 27, has lived in Queens for the last 17 years. Until he was 10 years old, he lived at 56 Wyckoff Avenue, which his aunt has owned since the 1960s. His grandmother and cousins live there as well. "My aunt, my grandmother, they are elder church ladies. They cook in the food kitchens. They are known in the community for that," he said.
Giron and his extended family gather at 56 Wyckoff for meals at least once a week. "I can't afford Bushwick anymore," he said. "I have a lot of family that left because they couldn't afford it."
Last summer, Crain's reported a 31.2% increase in Bushwick property values—from $427,200 in June 2013, to $560,500 in June 2014. Overall, Trulia documents a 93% increase in the neighborhood's median property value in the last five years, and almost 650% since 2000.
The rising property values and soaring rents have had widespread consequences. This spring, we spoke to Elvys Contreras, who owns a small bakery down the street from 1209 Dekalb (formerly Colony 1209). Studios at the 421-a-subsidized luxury apartment building start at $1,875. "The people who are moving in don't shop in the community. They don't buy products here," Contreras said. "I was just talking to a customer of mine who lived down the block, and had to move."
When Giron called Abner to explain that the mural would have to be removed in time for building renovations in October, he says that Abner threatened his family. "He was incredibly aggressive on the phone," Giron said, adding that Abner threatened to call the city on his aunt, who occasionally sells Salvadorian food in her front yard. Abner later agreed to take down the art in October, arguing that its presence raised the Giron family's property value.
Abner told us yesterday, "I didn't think for a second that anyone would care, especially the tenants. There was already graffiti on that wall. Nasty graffiti. What we did with the crochet art, is we covered up nasty graffiti with nice graffiti."
Giron has decided not to report the crochet mural to the Department of Buildings (it is against housing code to post unsolicited materials on private homes). "We're not planning on doing anything," he said. "This is really a way for people to see what's going on in Bushwick. It's become a symbol of what's going on. It's a small piece of a much greater social epidemic."
"I don't feel like London was doing anything malicious. I truly believe that from the bottom of my heart," he added. "At the same time though, that's a lack of awareness of your own privilege. If any black or Latino person were to do what London did, we'd have to worry about being bashed by the cops."