For the past few years, the building at West 108th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenues has been more than just another rental. Its 16 tenants, who live in mostly rent-stabilized units, have created a tight-knit community—a necessity, considering many of the apartments have shared kitchens and bathrooms—where rent managed to remain under $1,000 a month. It’s also the site of a rare mural by legendary artist Keith Haring. But today, the tenants of the building had to say goodbye to the place they have called home for so many years as the current owners, Church of the Ascension, potentially prepare to sell the site to developers, leaving the fate of Haring’s unique mural uncertain, reports DNAinfo.
Haring created the intricate piece more than 20 years ago, long before the Church of the Ascension acquired the space. In the early 1980s, the building served as a convent and home to a Catholic youth organization called Grace House. It’s said that Haring spent some time at the organization and one night whipped out the mural while about 50 kids watched him paint. Though the organization is long gone, it’s history and legacy lived on inside the building, with the tenants appreciating what Haring left behind.
Aside from the obvious upset of being driven from their homes, many of the tenants fear that the mural will be destroyed and the building will become yet another in a series of "soulless condos," as one tenant said. They fear that the building will be demolished or gut-renovated, wiping out a truly rare part of Haring’s legacy. A few tenants are exploring options that include attempting to have the building landmarked, working with the Keith Haring Foundation for assistance, and even filing a lawsuit against the Church of the Ascension for the eviction overall.
Whatever comes of this unfortunate ordeal, hopefully the new developers will work towards preserving the mural, similar to what was done in a Tribeca complex when another Haring mural was discovered during a 2001 renovation.