In the last few months, Bronx residents have struck back at real estate developers Somerset Partners and Chetrit Group for hosting a “Bronx is Burning”-themed party and attempting to rebrand the Port Morris neighborhood into the Piano District.
#WhatPianoDistrict – the preferred hashtag to call out the real estate developers’ gentrifying efforts – has become a symbol for the fight online, and it has also inspired two graffiti artists to call them out loudly offline.
And so Alberto Serrano, aka Tito Na Rua, and Alfredo Bennett, aka Royal KingBee, created a mural on Walton Avenue modeled after a comic strip that shows gentrifiers exterminating locals. “When I saw this thing with the piano district, I thought, This needs to be done,” said Tito Na Rua, who currently lives in Brazil, to The New York Times. “The theme was something I had already been thinking about, since in Rio they are doing the same thing. They are removing a lot of homes and doing urban renewal in preparation for the Summer Olympics.”
Tito Na Rua had been thinking of going back to his old Bronx neighborhood to create a big art piece, but it was two events this year that finally made him take action. He first questioned if the Bronx was being gentrified after a temporary art exhibit at the empty Bronx Borough Courthouse, and then, the party in Port Morris was the final straw.
With the help of Royal KingBee, Tito Na Rua created a to be continued comic strip in a part that they felt was still safe from gentrification.