A Threat at De La Vega’s Former Store

JunkSuzanne Rozdeba Amy Sidney, inside her St. Marks Place store earlier this month, said that she was threatened Saturday by someone who was apparently upset at the space’s previous tenant, the artist James De La Vega.

Street artist James De La Vega was used to getting threatened in his St. Marks Place museum store. He chalked it up to people not liking his quirky art or his bold messages. But now the new tenants of his former storefront say that they, too, have gotten a taste of those old threats.

Amy Sidney, the co-owner of Junk on St. Marks Place, said a man recently walked into her shop on Saturday and threatened her because he was apparently upset at Mr. De La Vega.

Mrs. Sidney said that a clean-cut looking man, in his late 20s or early 30s, came into the thrift shop at about 8 p.m. and asked if this was “De La Vega’s new place.” Mrs. Sidney said that after she replied no, the man threatened her.

”The guy said, ‘If we find out you have anything to do with him, we’re going to break your windows,’” she recalled. “I was startled, but I tried to play it cool, and said, ‘Go ahead, I have insurance.’ The guy said, ‘Then we’ll keep breaking your windows,’ and walked out.”

Mrs. Sidney, whose thrift store opened a week ago, said she has not filed a police report and that she’s not afraid. “He didn’t do any physical harm to me,” she said. “I didn’t think the cops would take it seriously.
 But if someone comes back and breaks my windows, I will of course file a police report.”

She said the shop has nothing to do with the De La Vega Museum Store, which closed last month.

When he was told about the incident, Mr. De La Vega said that he was not surprised.

”Threats have become a part of my life,” he said. “My art inspires people in different ways. If Amy needs assistance from the local police, I would be happy to call the precinct there and ask them to check up on her place. I wish no harm on Amy or her business. In no way do I want to see her, her employees, or her vision in any way damaged.”

Mr. De La Vega said that in the past the tires on his car have been slashed and that he has received death threats. He attributed those incidents to strong reactions to his art, which he acknowledged could be polarizing.

“I had chairs outside my museum that said, ‘Jews Only’ or ‘Colored Only,’ ” Mr. De La Vega said. “That created heated discussions about race. My message, ‘Become Your Dream,’ is a powerful, controversial message. People are deprived of freedom. Their souls are agitated. People feel like, ‘Why can’t I create a powerful opportunity for myself?’ People are upset and I understand that. When people are angry, they lash out.”

east village, 7/26/08Jenn Pelly This 2008 photo depicts some of the artwork outside Mr. De La Vega’s museum store. He said that this piece “created heated discussions about race. My message, ‘Become Your Dream,’ is a powerful, controversial message.”