Back of 201 Water Street on Plymouth Street, DUMBO, Brooklyn

December 2000

I chose this location because of the “DUMBO = SoHo” graffiti, which I just couldn’t resist. It wasn’t really a very good site for painting otherwise, because the wall was so bumpy, even after I’d sandpapered and primed it, so my version of Karoly Marko the Elder’s Landscape with the Walk to Emmaus was pretty rudimentary.

I painted this one quite quickly because it was so cold. I had chemical handwarmers, but my feet got really cold standing in the snow. Most of the people who came by just asked me things like, “Aren’t you cold?” No one seemed interested in what I was doing. I think it was too cold to stop to talk.

Later, when I was working with the Live Work Coalition, trying to change the law to protect people who had moved into commercially zoned buildings, I met an artist called Anne MacDonald, who said that she’d watched me making this painting. She lived around the corner. She’s not in DUMBO anymore, because her landlord tormented all of his tenants to get them out because he wanted to get the building rezoned and rent it for more. He also called the Buildings Department and had his tenants in another of his buildings on Water Street thrown out into the snow on two hours’ notice just before Christmas. At the time, the Buildings Department claimed that the Fire Department had said that there was an “imminent threat” to the tenants despite the fact that they’d been living there with the Fire Department’s knowledge for about fifteen years. Those people never got back into their building because the landlord never made the improvements that the Buildings Department subsequently claimed were necessary. As far as I know, the landlord ended up not getting a zoning variance on his buildings and then they all burned down mysteriously. So DUMBO is like SoHo after all, but without a Loft Law. Both the painting and the graffiti were still there when I last looked, but that was several months ago. I’m not in DUMBO so often anymore, since most of my friends have been priced out.