The work of a local artist on a beloved business will soon be painted over after less than a week in the open, due to complaints filed with the Village of Flower Hill.
Rino DiMaria, the operator of Joanne’s Pizza and the owner of the building at 1067 Northern Blvd., which also houses a combination Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin Robbins, says he approved a mural, painted by artist Spencer Stown, across the front of his building, but that it must now be repainted gray after complaints came in.
Stown, a self-described urban artist who also creates designs for clothing, eyewear and jewelry, grew up in the Roslyn and Port Washington areas of Flower Hill, at one point living a block away from Joanne’s Pizza.
Now a resident of Bay Shore and active in Instagram’s art scene as @stown7, Stown says he was visiting for a slice last week when DiMaria asked him to paint one of his designs inside a small, white circle in the middle of the restaurant’s ceiling. He completed it on Friday, as well as a pair of elaborate angel wings and a halo in the restaurant’s window.
“This was more of an abstract freestyle, my painting is kind of me just doing my own thing,” Stown said. “And I’ve been painting this style for a very long time.”
DiMaria liked the ceiling and window so much that he suggested that Stown paint his designs on the south and west walls of the building.
“We sit on this dreary corner, we could use something to brighten up this neighborhood,” DiMaria said. “We thought it would make people smile.”
The two agreed on a color scheme. Following a total of 15 hours of work and 40 cans of spray-paint worth over $500, Stown had completed his mural on the exterior.
“I got here Friday at 1:30 p.m., I stayed till about 8 p.m., then I came back Saturday, and I finished it,” Stown said. “It’s a big space to cover in a short time span … the response that I’ve been getting from people, stopping and taking pictures, was really good and positive. Unfortunately, not long afterward [DiMaria] was telling me that he was getting some really bad feedback.”
DiMaria said less than two days after the mural went up, he received a phone call from the Village of Flower Hill saying that the mural went against a provision in the village code saying that changes to the facade of a building had to be approved by the village.
“They say, you have to have permits to change your facade,” “I don’t want to argue with that, but I said well but it’s not a facade. A facade is a matter of architectural structure, but I’m not pushing it.”
He added he had received summonses from the village for failing to maintain exterior surfaces of the building and “keeping up with the standards of the community,” and for display of a sign upon the building without application, which were due to Stown adding the slogan “America Runs on Dunkin” to his mural, something he has since painted over.
A statement from the village to Blank Slate Media acknowledged that complaints had been made, but did not discuss the nature of the complaints.
“The Village has received complaints about newly applied exterior wall paint at the business located at the corner of Middle Neck Road and Northern Boulevard,” the statement reads. “We have been in contact with the owner and we are informed that the exterior will be restored to the same color as before. We have taken appropriate actions per our code and will take further action should that become necessary.”
DiMaria said that he will comply, and that he made an agreement with the village to paint over the mural following the snowfall this week. He added that he and Stown will be working with the village to develop a new, permanent mural at a later date.
“We’ve been in this neighborhood for 28 years, we’ve never done anything wrong. We don’t want to offend any of the residents or the board, and it will be taken care of,” DiMaria said. “We’ll come back bigger and better because he’s going to do a mural that they approve.”
Still, Stown said it will be hard to see his work painted over.
“It’s kind of bittersweet,” he said. “I don’t feel like it’s hurting anyone. It really is just a color on the wall. Just because it was done with an aerosol can doesn’t mean that it’s vandalism.”