ESPO Paints 'Love Letter to Brooklyn' on Vintage Macy's Garage

Listen to what people are saying about "Love Letter to Brooklyn" below.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Stephen Powers and his team painted 'Love Letter to Brooklyn' on a Macy's parking garage on Hoyt St. betweem Fulton St. and Livingston Stephen Powers and his team painted "Love Letter to Brooklyn" on a Macy's parking garage on Hoyt St. betweem Fulton St. and Livingston (Abbie Fentress Swanson/WNYC)

The renowned Philadelphia artist and sign painter Stephen Powers, who many know by his old tag name ESPO, is putting the finishing touches on a piece of monumental street art on the outside of an old Macy's parking garage in downtown Brooklyn.

The piece, called "Love Letter to Brooklyn," is made up of lines like "I cop futures here," "Onward, upward," "Home," "I was nurtured here," "I am made to leave, I am made to return," "Born busy as a Brooklyn bound B" and "Is you for me?" The team used rollers and house paint from Lowe's in Brooklyn to create the work on the garage exterior.

So far, "Love Letter to Brooklyn" had taken 13 days to paint, and Powers estimates it will take three more. The piece was largely inspired by conversations he and his team of a dozen painters had with people passing by the parking garage. Powers also interviewed long-time Brooklyn resident David Villorente for the piece, who grew up in housing projects nine blocks away. It turned out this particular Macy's had a special resonance for Villorente.

"He saw Santa at Macy's as a child," said Powers. "The first time he had money, he spent it at Macy's. He was employed there as a teenager and passes through currently as a local resident."

Powers said when he got the commission from Macy's for the project, it was important to him that it reflect thoughts from members of the community of downtown Brooklyn.

From "Love Letter to Brooklyn"

"I found that when I worked in Coney Island in 2003 and '04 and '05 that really the strength was to go to the center of the community and broadcast out to the periphery as opposed to being at the periphery and trying to go towards the center," he said. "Once I understood what the city was thinking and feeling, then I could translate that and paint it on a wall."

The project was partially designed by Powers before it was painted and evolved with feedback from the community.

"We're still taking suggestions, so if you pass by and you see us working, feel free to yell up anything at us," he said. "We'll try to work it into what we're doing."

Prior to his "Love Letter to Brooklyn," Powers painted poems on roofs and buildings in Philadelphia and in Syracuse. He's also painted a series of quotes by ad man David Ogilvy onto the walls of the New York Ogilvy & Mather offices.

"Who better than graffiti writer turned professional sign painter ESPO to pen an ode to Brooklyn and add some much-needed visual interest to an otherwise monumentally drab parking garage?" said Katherine Lorimer, who takes photos of street art around town of graffiti as Luna Park.

But not everyone is excited about the garage's facelift.

"I think it's awful. Absolutely awful," said Kenneth Kerpen, who has lived in the neighborhood for years. "I'm parking my car here and I'm really disappointed I have to look at this nonsense."

But Al Dawkins, a former graffiti artist from the Bronx turned retired NYPD cop (tag name: Chico Butch), disagreed.

"I love it," he said. "You know, I wish we could see more of this all over the city."

Fans of the work will be glad to hear there is more Steve Powers coming to downtown Brooklyn. His team will soon be working on a piece that will sit prominently on Fulton Mall. They're also working on getting permission to paint several other pieces on buildings in the neighborhood.

"Love Letter to Brooklyn," which sits on on Hoyt St. between Rivington St. and Fulton St., will be finished this week.

What do you think of "Love Letter to Brooklyn"? Let us know in the comments below. While you're at it, check out the work in the slideshow.

Abbie Fentress Swanson/WNYC
"I was nurtured here."
Abbie Fentress Swanson/WNYC
"Euphoria" and "Is you for me?"
Abbie Fentress Swanson/WNYC
"I cop futures here."
Abbie Fentress Swanson/WNYC
"Busy as a Brooklyn Boud B."
Powers and his team painted this piece with housepaint and rollers from Lowes in Brooklyn.
Abbie Fentress Swanson/WNYC
Powers and his team painted this piece with housepaint and rollers from Lowes in Brooklyn.
Abbie Fentress Swanson/WNYC
"Turn To Me."
Abbie Fentress Swanson/WNYC
"I was nurtured here."
Abbie Fentress Swanson/WNYC
"I see eternity."
Abbie Fentress Swanson/WNYC
"Turn to me."


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Comments [16]

Tim from Downtown Brooklyn

Last line should read "Love Letter to Brooklyn," which sits on on Hoyt St. between LIVINGSTON St. and Fulton St., will be finished this week."

NOT Rivington. The correct location was stated earlier in the article.

Oct. 25 2012 12:23 PM
Andrew from BK

Was on my way to cop a scrub brush at the dollar store and a new pillow at Macy's when I saw this. Well done. It's relevant to the neighborhood, involves the community and gives that dreary alley some new life.

Jan. 17 2012 06:31 PM
Robert Zurer from Brooklyn

So positive. Renewed my faith in humankind.

Jan. 02 2012 04:10 PM
Erica Zurer from Brooklyn

This is so wonderful. Made my trip to Dr Jays inspiring!

Jan. 02 2012 12:51 PM

Poetry and Love on our buildings in Brooklyn....fantastic!

Nov. 26 2011 04:13 PM
khlidser from

You are so cute, Becky! I am glad that this project is so fulfilling for you! So proud of you and excited for you! I really do want to write a love letter eventually, it’s just taking me awhile to find the time to sit down and do it!

Oct. 03 2011 01:14 PM
scott from duh

Just another Philly export showing New Yorkers how its done.
p.s. Thanks again for Cliff Lee. See you in late October.

Sep. 30 2011 12:37 PM
t d

I really like the comments of people saying "it's ugly" or something along the lines of that, especially "twenty foot tall Soviet-era-ugly letters" - so i'm guessing a drab, blank, grey wall does nothing to invoke a similar feeling? How much more "soviet-era" can you get with a blank wall that is otherwise yet another boring piece of construction?

Also, I would think that living in brooklyn you wouldn't want to be as generic as any suburban neighborhood with another grey parking garage. Pieces like this really make any neighborhood more unique and give it a life of its own (not even just in bk, but anywhere).

ESPO has always done awesome lettering. I would definitely feel privileged to have someone of such talent paint up walls in my neighborhood.

Sep. 19 2011 05:09 PM
rkchin from nyc

That font seems appropriate, it's reminiscent of brooklyn's gritty industrial waterfront past with it's high-contrast, utilitarian lettering blended on corrugated sheet metal and grey paint; espo is no idiot.

...the same kind of no nonsense lettering found today on the bows of warships, and also the "long island" painted on the gantry at hunter's point, queens.

Sep. 15 2011 05:35 PM
The Splasher Has A Posse

Just like an undercover CIA operative in Libya identifying and marking buildings for destruction by NATO bombers the "street artists" mark neighborhoods for destruction by real estate developers. Street artists are merely advanced scouts for capital.

Sep. 15 2011 12:58 PM
Zaftig from BK

I love the idea, but I do not love the font. But that dump of a neighborhood needs all the help it can get... :)

Sep. 15 2011 12:54 PM
John bredin from NYC

I think it's wonderful that a drab, banal piece of real estate has been magically transformed, brought to life if you will, by the intervention of artist Stephen Powers. Now passersby will be inspired to wonder about and ponder their own relationships to concepts such as nurturance, and ritual leavings and homecomings to beloved neighborhoods.

Someone should forward this to Jonathan Lethem, the iconic Brooklyn writer who recently moved to California.

This is a great example of non-elite, humanistic art at its best, rooted in community, and in the cares and concerns of everyday people.

Virginia Woolf's comment that "art lights the slow fuse of the possible" is clearly evident in Powers remarkable work here.

John Bredin

Sep. 15 2011 11:27 AM

I like it. Graphically interesting, it's a positive message, executed nicely, in a good-looking typeface. It's an uplifting improvement to an eyesore of a parking structure. And it's clearly done with hope and positivity, which are a nice contrast to the neglected (or abused with ugly oversize commercial signage) buildings in this area. Now, if only something could be done to improve the operations of the adjacent craptacular, under-stocked Macy's store...

Sep. 15 2011 11:06 AM
Ms C from Harlem, NY

I work right across the street from the parking garage. It's been very exciting to watch the terribly ugly lot become transformed into art. Brilliant idea! It's brought some new life to downtown BK.

Sep. 15 2011 09:10 AM
BaHa from N YC

9th generation Brooklyn here. I don't need twenty foot tall Soviet-era-ugly letters to celebrate Brooklyn. A horror.

Sep. 15 2011 08:57 AM
Hisako Kobayashi

I really like it. It has sense of immediacy as if I am talking to someone or spoken to. Nice !

Sep. 14 2011 06:48 PM

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