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Union Street's "Who's Your Uncle" Mural Painted Over

One of the neighborhood's great little quirks was the three-part mural on Union Street, just east of Fifth Avenue. The wall was decorated with blue and white vertical stripes and the logo for Uncle Louie G, the ice cream shop next door; a meticulously transcribed prose poem, 1927's inspiring Desiderata by Max Ehrmann; and an awesome and patriotic painting of the American flag festooned with the head of a bald eagle, with "Who's your uncle?" written above and "Brooklyn" written below. A row of benches also allowed folks to gather, sit, and enjoy their ice cream.

It was one of those unique little corners of the neighborhood, and earlier this week it was painted over by the building's owners to make way for the jeans store that's moving into the corner space, Turkish import Mavi. I was afraid that this would happen.

Thanks to a tipster for sending in the top photo, and Park Slope Stoop for snapping the above one, of the finished product. What a few days ago was a scrappy and heartfelt gift to the neighborhood by talented and thoughtful artists has been reduced to a bare brown wall. Makes me wonder if those benches will even be returned, or if they're concerned that it'll attract loiterers. 

Here's the poem in its entirety, because it deserves it.

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann

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Reader Comments (43)

They are paying thousands a month in rent but you suggest they have VANDALIZED the neighborhood? That is really effed up to say. I always thought the mural was shabby and ugly and it looks far better now.

You may have preferred the mural but please don't accuse someone of vandalizing something when they are now the rightful leasee of that space.

August 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPatty

And it's weird how you make no mention how they have totally restored the historic facade of the building and brought this great building back to life. historic buildings like this don't need tacky American flags or bald eagles painted on them it's an abomination to do so.

August 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPatty

I'm with you Dan. What a great metaphor for the impact chain stores are having on our neighborhood. Watch as they wipe away character and uniqueness with bland and boring brown paint. It wasn't the Mona Lisa, but it was our mural. Shame on Mavi Jeans.

August 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBaDaBing

I wasn't planning on shopping at Mavi, but now I'm definitely not going to. What idiots. And you know the funny thing? I bet it's only going to be here for a year or two and then will close. What a waste of a mural.

August 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDonna Hey!

I'm with Patty

August 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

The mural was a bit lame - if quirky cool.
But they rented the store and they want to brand it the way they want so I get it, if a bit disappointed.
HOWEVER, removing the benches (if thats the plan) is a real d!ck move. Its a great community place to sit and eat ice cream or just hang out and removing it just for some misguided plan to sell crappy turkish jeans (who buys turkish jeans anyway??) is B.S.

Before this I gave them 24mo (b/c few people buy turkish jeans) but now I say less than 18mo.

August 2, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbklynmind

Ok, here's what none of you know. I asked the LouieG's employees about the mural and the benches and found out the scoop. It was NOT the decision of the jeans store or Louie G's - IT WAS THE OWNER OF THE BUILDING - whom I presume LouieG's and Mavi rents from.

August 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKayla

I don't care.

I find the choice of store somewhat uninspiring, but it fits the corner and perhaps I'll change my mind while I'm shopping there.

August 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTed Nelson

Crypto-Islamist d!ck move. Erdogan is smiling.

August 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGeddafuggoudda Brooklyn

Mavi Jeans is a great store. If you've been to Istanbul (or one of rheir other stores in Berlin, Vancouver, Tokyo) you'd know. Quality apparel for a neighborhood so lacking in good non vintage clothing options.

The store will be packed. Those already predicting its demise are the ones vandalizing the neighborhood not Mavi Jeans. As stated above it was NOT their decision to remove this it was the owner of the building. I hope this post will be changed to reflect the truth.

August 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSusie

Kayla - maybe thats true or maybe it isnt; but if I was Mavi, I'd immediately appeal to the owner to return the benches because given the timing, the non-blog reading community will associate the loss of the benches with Mavi. And everytime someone gets ice cream or is waiting for the bus and looks for a place to sit down...they will think ....I hate Mavi.

August 2, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbklynmind

This space has sat empty for over a year and before that it was an ugly check cashing joint more suitable in east New York. Mavi comes in and completely restores the entire storefront and now you want to criticize them before they've even opened for something that wasn't even their doing but something the landlord has done?

Sometimes I really hate this neighborhood. A bunch of whiny, narccistic elitists. Let me guess you'd rather have a crocs store.

August 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRick


I will not think that. Stores are not obligated to provide outdoor benches for lazy Park Slopers.

August 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRick

I am not hoping they fail, but I asked around to the stylish women I know and the universal opinion was that Mavi sucks - hence my 24mo opinion.
And in fact Mavi had a store in the Village and guess what - closed.

So Rick dont lump me in with the normal anti-everything PSer, I have nothing against chains (wish this was a JCrew actually) and am glad the check cashing place is gone (I dont believe crap=character) but removing the benches is a bad idea (whomever did it) and it will be associated with Mavi; so unless the cool chicks I know are the exception, Mavi has an uphill climb. I actually wish them well.

August 2, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbklynmind

Yes Rick people who sit on benches are by definition lazy.....

Amazing that it took only 2 posts for you to reveal yourself to be the whinny, (likely)narcissistic, elitist that you claim to despise.

August 2, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbklynmind

You know the most hilarious thing here, if you all lived in this building and had to listen to the people who routinely hung around on those benches at ALL HOURS of the night, you'd be on the phone with 311 every night. trust me, I have a friend who lives there and has been BEGGING the landlord to remove the benches for years.

But since you don't live there all you see is some false truth about a new store from some muslim country coming in and stealing your benches away.

It's really just so sad how hypocritical Park Slopers are.

August 2, 2013 | Unregistered Commentersterling

I have 2 pair of Mavi jeans I bought in Turkey about 4 years ago, wear them all the time and love them. It's the designer jean in Turkey kinda like True Religion here. There are a lot of Europeans in these parts and they will be big customers of Mavi too. They have a great selection of styles and they make a quality product made in Turkey not in China or Bangladesh.

August 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLiza

August 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLiza

Jcrew is awful, I'm so happy one of those aren't opening. Everything is made in China and overpriced with very little style. I see they are opening in Cobble Hill and they got over 4000 signatures on a petition to try to keep them out. I despise Jcrew and its owner who cheated on her husband for years and now lives with her lesbian lover.

August 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLiza

Agree that jcrew is a terrible store with $100 tank tops and $250 sweaters. All of it is made in China paying someone pennies. None of it is particularly stylish, it's about the same as Gap.

I would have liked to seen something more along the lines of a Epaulet on Smith Street, but Mavi is at least a reputable company with flagship locations in the most hip of cities. We'll see how it does, but I'm thankful it's not a Jcrew. Once Jcrew comes in it's only a matter of time before the neighborhood looks like a mall. This is NYC's only Mavi store so that's pretty cool they decided to put it in Park Slope.

HATE Jcrew and Gap. If you're going to buy crappy clothing, might as well get it at H&M and spend 1/5th the price. Plus you can get jcrew online or in Manhattan so why take up valuable retail space with something you can find in any mall in america? I don't understand the folks that want to see the neighborhood become another Paramus mall.

August 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterIna

As for the mural, historic and beautiful buildings like this should not be painted with graffiti. I never liked that mural I thought it did a disservice to what was actually a really great brownstone building. Murals like that remind me why landmarking is so important. There are plenty of non-historic buidlings along 5th avenue (especially in south slope) more suitable for murals but this one always felt wrong. As for the benches, maybe it's best to wait and see if they come back but I can certainly understand not wanting them there if I lived above Mavi. They already have to deal with the noise of the bus stop and the drunk people coming out of Union Hall. I think a strip of benches attracting people all day and night would have been the straw that broke the camels back. Go put the benches on the other side at least in front of that gym where the taco truck parks. Benches like this are not something you're entitled to, it's just a nice treat. There are city benches being installed all around the city and those are for you to sit your weary Park Slope behind after those 12 hour shifts.

August 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterIna

It was an eagle and an American flag. Is there anything more cliche? That kind of corny stuff makes me cringe. It wasn't even particularly well done. The poem was a nice touch though.

I think they should really get some Brooklyn artist or graffiti artist, or have the community make something new for that wall. Just to sort of, give it back to the neighborhood.

The benches? They were primarily for people who were eating at Louie G's, which is gone now. Besides, the city has been installing benches/seats in the area, maybe another one will pop up here. One popped up by me on 9th street.

August 2, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbirdmechanical

I know alot of you have to fit everything into your 'entitled park slopian' theology but no one said that anyone is "entitled" to benches. All I said was that people clearly liked the benches and will associate their removal with Mavi.(which is bad for Mavi)

As for the residential tenant's........ In "bizzaro world park slope" the Heres Park Slope article is about them trying to get the benches removed due to the noise of people talking under their windows and the same posters here are cited as saying that these transplants from ohio are a bunch of narcissistic entitled whiners who think NYC is suppossed to be perfectly quiet.

August 2, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrklynmind

How will I fit in my new Mavi jeans with Uncle Louie Gs right next door?

August 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJust Shlopin

Even that new show everyone is talking about, Orange is the new Black has Park Slope pegged. Half way through the season the main character is outed as being from our neighborhood when someone calls her a "Park Slope narcissist" Obviously it was not a compliment.

Hollywood knows, I know, only person who doesn't seem to know is bklynmind.

August 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEd

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