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Dona Zita Murals by OverUnder and ND'A Awaiting Their Fate. Photo © Eric Kowalsky. All Rights Reserved

Last summer, street artists OverUnder and ND’A painted murals for the restaurant Plaza Mexico Doña Zita on the Bowery and Henderson Walk in Coney Island. Giant tropical flowers blossomed on a fence on the Henderson side of Thor Equities’ construction site and brought a garden of street art to Doña Zita’s. Unlike some of its neighbors, this popular little eatery has managed to survive the upheaval brought about by Coney Island’s rezoning and redevelopment. Yet Doña Zita’s proximity to Thor’s empty lots made the seating area less than scenic. Then the murals appeared, almost miraculously, and transformed the view.

Since construction on Thor’s building is completed and the fencing was taken down, the Doña Zita murals have been piled up in the lot across the street, awaiting their fate. Murals from the Bowery, Surf and Stillwell sides of the building, which were painted by OverUnder, ND’A, Veng, Radical and Ephameron for a project curated by Keith Schweitzer for No Longer Empty, have already disappeared. Last month, some panels were spotted in a botched reassembly at another Thor construction site in Bensonhurst.

Coney Island mural

Coney Island mural with ND'A by O V E R U N D E R, on Flickr. June 30, 2011. Photo © O V E R U N D E R. All Rights Reserved

Do street artists have a tough skin when it comes to the fate of their work? ATZ contacted the No Longer Empty muralists to find out.

The artist known as OverUnder told ATZ: “Although it is saddening to see the handling of one’s public work by people, critics, and the weather, it is also inherent to the work. I would take seeing the sun and rains effect on a mural over a construction workers lack of reassembly any day but beggars, errr, street artists can’t be choosers.”

At the same time, OverUnder and the other artists are sad to see colorful, handmade, authentic signage of Coney Island replaced by pre-fab or generic signs.

“I was very pleased and honored to be able to paint something out at Coney Island,” wrote ND’A in an email. “Ever since I moved to New York the old signs and murals have always stopped me in my tracks. I think in our line of work it is a hope, not an expectation, that things will be a fixture and not ephemeral.”

“That being said,” ND’A added, “If the construction site remains unable or unwilling to put everything back to its original state I know we are all generally chomping at the bit to paint big outdoor projects. If you know of any spots where we could do more murals I’d love to put more work out there.”

Coney Island mural O V E R U N D E R with ND'A

Coney Island mural with ND'A by O V E R U N D E R, on Flickr. June 30, 2011. Photo © O V E R U N D E R. All Rights Reserved

Thor Equities new building remains vacant and is now encased in plywood except for the side on Henderson Walk, which is the back of the building and has no windows. “I see a blank canvas for No Longer Empty,” wrote one of the commenters on our recent post about the building. We’d like to see more murals too, but Thor is already throwing up advertisements. This week, signs touting “CONEY ISLAND – The RETAIL RIDE of a LIFETIME – for leasing contact..” went up on the Stillwell side. Thor debuted the odious slogan last May.

Doña Zita’s is located on Coney Island’s Bowery at Henderson Walk, one of the few historic “walks” remaining in Coney. We love her food and so did the artists. The restaurant also gets high marks on Yelp, Serious Eats (“Tacos plus sandy feet and the smell of the ocean equals the perfect summer combination”) and Time Out (“the finest quesadilla this side of Sunset Park”).

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Related posts on ATZ…

February 5, 2012: Botched Job: Coney Island Art Exiled by Thor Equities

June 1, 2011: Photo Album: Street Art Down by the Coney Island Bowery

May 3, 2011: Photo of the Day: Street Art by RAE in Coney Island

April 15, 2011: Photo Album: Whimsical Murals Blossom in Coney Island

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Coney Island Murals

No Longer Empty in Coney Island: Polar Bear by Veng and ND'A painting Down by the Boardwalk. May 28, 2011. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

On Saturday in Coney Island, we passed by the Bowery side of Thor Equities’ blue construction fence to find an artist working on a Down by the Boardwalk-themed painting. It features a friendly octopus holding a boombox and a note saying “On a blanket with my baby is where I’ll be.” Like the three street artists whose work we wrote about last month in “Photo Album: Whimsical Murals Blossom in Coney Island,” ND’A aka Nick was sent by the art organization No Longer Empty and the City’s Economic Development Corporation to beautify the streetscape.

ND'A

ND'A painting Down by the Boardwalk. May 28, 2011. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

Keith Schweitzer, who organized the mural project for No Longer Empty, told ATZ about the other new murals: “The polar bear – to the left of Nick’s octopus – is by Veng, the same artist who painted the semi-realistic faces and clown on the Stillwell wall. He’s a quiet, talented man and often full of surprises. He arrived at the wall that morning and said ‘I am going to paint a polar bear.’. It was later I found out that he & his family/friends take part in the Polar Bear Club activity at Coney Island each year. Like I said, he’s a quiet man, and I’m not sure if hearing about Rabbi Abraham Abraham’s recent passing away had anything to do with the subject of the mural.”

No Longer Empty in Coney Island: ND'A painting Down by the Boardwalk... May 28, 2011. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

As for the large CONEY letters guarded by New York’s Finest in the photo below, they were painted by OverUnder, who also painted the Stillwell Avenue side of the fence with Veng. “OverUnder did the whimsical swimmers and the heart ‘Love to Sea you,’ and other elements of the wall,” says Schweitzer. “On one of the days that we were painting Stillwell Ave, a newlywed couple walked toward OverUnder from the boardwalk having just taken post-wedding photos. They were in full wedding attire and asked OverUnder if he would paint something for them. OverUnder obliged, asking their names, and painted their initials H&B inside of a heart. That was not part of the planned composition, but it developed into the wonderful ‘tattoo’ heart and I am happy to see that many people stop to be photographed in front of the heart.”

CONEY by OverUnder

No Longer Empty in Coney Island: CONEY by OverUnder. May 28, 2011. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

We’re happy to see these fanciful paintings bringing good vibrations to this decimated block. As previously noted, it’s a good solution to distract people’s attention from the construction fence and the empty lot at the gateway to Coney Island’s beach and boardwalk. Sad to say, the century-old Henderson Music Hall stood here until real estate speculator Joe “Blight for Spite” Sitt knocked it down in January. A pile driver was recently moved onto the lot at Surf and Stillwell. Behind the blue fence, a foundation for a high rise is being built, on top of which a placeholder one-story commercial building will be plopped next season. Nothing can quell my sorrow that we lost the zoning battle to keep high rises of up to 30 stories off the south side of Surf.

Update, June 14th…

Visit Vandalog to see photos of the latest mural on the blue wall: The street artist Radical has painted an ice-cream cone slurping hot dog!

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May 18, 2011: New Coney Island Freak Show Banners Pay Homage to Past

May 3, 2011: Photo of the Day: Street Art by RAE in Coney Island

April 15, 2011: Photo Album: Whimsical Murals Blossom in Coney Island

May 4, 2010: Rare & Vintage: Major Debert the Tiniest Man’s Sideshow Banner

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