On Monday, July 25th, the Rag noticed that someone had modified the Banksy graffiti of a boy swinging a hammer on West 79th Street and Broadway, but not in the way a vandal typically leaves their mark.
The signs accompanying the Banksy graffiti were altered by someone claiming that Zabar’s was not properly maintaining the art. A piece of paper reading “Andrew Janoff” was taped over the word “Zabar’s” on the banner above it.
Zabar’s takes responsibility for the image because it exists on the wall of a building owned by the Zabar family.
The iconic appetizing store, on 80th and Broadway, put plexiglass over the image to preserve it just a few hours after it was created in 2013, General Manager Scott Goldshine told the Rag, in a telephone interview.
On July 27th, Andrew made another change. A note to the community was taped to the side of the piece, reading, “Hello UWS friends, Please know Zabar’s has refused repeated requests to help clean and protect this Banksy. I bought my own cleaning supplies. Let’s keep it fresh. Thanks! – Your neighbor Andrew”.
When the Rag asked several businesses on the block, including Sam who runs the Halal cart on the corner of 79th and Broadway six days a week, not one person had seen the man who put his name on the piece. One employee at the 79th Street Pharmacy speculated that Andrew came late at night.
When the Rag asked Goldshine about the Bansky, it was the first time he had heard that someone had defaced it. It has been vandalized a few times before, he said, and, each time, Zabar’s has cleaned it.
Despite Andrew’s claim that he had made “repeated requests” for the Banksy to be cleaned, Goldshine said he has received no recent complaints about the state of the Banksy, which Zabar’s usually cleans about every six months. “If it needs to be cleaned, we’ll clean it, which is what we normally do,” he said. “We always look into every single complaint we get.”
The elusive British artist — and, technically, vandal by New York City authority standards — Banksy painted this piece in October 2013 while he was on a month-long residency in the city. He created at least one work a day in his project titled, “Better Out Than In,” careful not to be seen by anyone.
Tony, who works next door at the Dublin House, remembers when Banksy drew the art. He completed his drawing after Tony left work that night, so he figured it must have been done between the hours of 4 to 6 AM.
People were initially upset about the installation of the plexiglass, Goldshine said, but then became appreciative of it. It has become especially important, he said, since most other pieces from Banksy’s NYC residency have been destroyed, mostly vandalized by other graffiti artists, or painted over by building owners.
Just minutes after Zabar’s learned from The Rag about Andrew’s alterations, Goldshine and a maintenance worker visited the site to remove them. Because of tape damage, Zabar’s will have to replace the plexiglass, Goldshine said.
He has no message for Andrew, except to say that Zabar’s is happy to be a neighbor in the community and to protect the Banksy.