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Photo by Ryan Kelley/QNS
The artist known as Vers works on his mural at the corner of Seneca Avenue and Decatur Street in Ridgewood on Aug. 9.

Looking east from the corner of Decatur Street and Seneca Avenue in Ridgewood used to reveal one of the community’s few eyesores: an old brick warehouse, an underpass and train cars on the tracks above, all covered in amateur graffiti.

Over the past few months, however, the landscape has been transformed into a colorful, patriotic masterpiece.

The brick warehouse is used for storage purposes by its owner, local plumbing supply company Gil Meyerowitz Inc., but they had grown tired of the constant defacing, according to bookkeeper Rose Ann Meyers. At one point the company hired a Glendale-based group to come clean the walls, but a fresh canvas attracted new graffiti artists almost immediately, Meyers said.

Finally, someone suggested an artist to come paint something on the building that local vandals would respect, and the results have been better than expected.

It just looks so much better,” Meyers said. “And I think for the community, when you’re driving up the streets and you see all this graffiti and then you go further and see that eagle, it’s just refreshing.”

The detailed face of a bald eagle perched atop the highest section of the building with the red and white stripes of an American flag painted in the background was the first part of the project to be completed. On the southern wall of the building along Seneca Avenue, the word “Ridgewood” is painted in massive, urban-style lettering, though it is not completely filled in yet.

Another section of the southern wall includes a giant replica of the Statue of Liberty, complete with a view of the bay and Lower Manhattan in the background. The cityscape is filled with vibrant shades of blue, orange, magenta and red as if the sun was setting before it.

The Gil Meyerowitz building as of September 2017 (Image via Google Maps).

The Gil Meyerowitz building as of September 2017 (Image via Google Maps)

The Gil Meyerowitz building on Aug. 9, 2018 (Photo by Ryan Kelley/QNS).

The Gil Meyerowitz building on Aug. 9, 2018 (Photo by Ryan Kelley/QNS)

When the Ridgewood Times visited the site on Aug. 9, the man behind the mural was hard at work, adding small details to the body of Lady Liberty. He is a well-known graffiti artist from Brooklyn named Vers, but citing the underground nature of the graffiti culture, he preferred his real name not be used.

As a lifelong tagger himself, Vers admitted that he used to love doing the very thing that the folks at Gil Meyerowitz hired him to cover up. As his art evolved over time, however, he saw how off-putting some amateur work could be, especially at the corner of Decatur and Seneca. Now that he is nearly finished with the mural, Vers said the response from the community has been “overwhelmingly positive.”

During his conversation with the Ridgewood Times, Vers was approached by three separate people who wanted to thank him and compliment the work of art. It’s been happening every day that he’s there, he said, and some neighbors even bring him water bottles and snacks to get him through the August heat wave.

He’s also been visited by kids from the neighborhood who paint graffiti and respect his work, Vers said.

“It’s been incredible. The guy is talented as hell,” said one passerby, Keith Schieren, a custodian at nearby P.S. 68. “Look, you can see people staring right now. Everybody has a positive vibe and they want to take pictures. To me it’s a great thing for the community.”

Mike Cleaver, a manager for Gil Meyerowitz who comes to the supply building every day, added that the building’s new look is a big improvement over the “terrible” state that he used to see.

While the weather has been the biggest challenge for the artist along the way, Vers said he hopes to have the mural completed in the next two weeks. Once he fills in the lettering of the “Ridgewood” text, he also plans to paint different scenes from the neighborhood underneath it. He will also add more details to the garage door of the building to make it part of the Statue of Liberty scene, while creatively blending in a “No Parking” warning.

The artist commended the people from Gil Meyerowitz for “going above and beyond” to accommodate him and for allowing him to have creative freedom, as ideas for the project have evolved along the way. From the company, the feeling is more than mutual.

The guy did an amazing job and it brings the building a whole new dimension,” said Adam Coopersmith, an office manager. “It’s a nice change of pace for the neighborhood.”

Photo by Ryan Kelley/QNS

Photo by Ryan Kelley/QNS

Photo courtesy of Gil Meyerowitz, Inc.

Photo courtesy of Gil Meyerowitz Inc.

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