ENGLEWOOD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A battle is brewing in Bergen County over a mural that would honor a historic rap group.
The man behind the project says he’s followed city protocol to get the OK, but for nearly a year, the project has faced roadblocks.
Omar Lopez, an Englewood resident and founder of Englewood Art Walls, sees a splotchy red wall on North Dean Street as an opportunity to reinvigorate the downtown area, CBS2’s Lisa Rozner reports.
Since early 2019, he’s filed two permits with the City Council requesting to put up a mural of the historic Sugarhill Gang.
“I thought it was a wonderful way to kind of showcase our community,” Lopez said.
The Englewood-based group’s song “Rapper’s Delight” was released 40 years ago on Sept. 16, 1979.
There’s already a street sign dedicated to the late Sylvia Robinson, who founded the group, and plaques, but the mural wasn’t approved in time even though the property owner and Leland Robinson, Sylvia’s only surviving son, gave it the OK.
“It’s a great idea to put her picture up there along with the Sugarhill Gang, especially, you know, we deserve it,” Robinson said.
Over the last year, Lopez has been told to wait for a city ordinance that would mandate how murals go up, yet in that time, the city approved a different mural that went up this week.
“If they would tell us what the issue is, we could rectify it and address it and come up with some compromise that works for everybody,” landlord David Goldberg said.
After months of radio silence, late last night, the city’s zoning officer Wayne Scott denied Lopez’s application.
CBS2 wanted to speak with Scott, but he declined an on-camera interview.
No one — the city manager, the city attorney, members of the City Council — would make themselves available to speak with CBS2 on camera.
Mayor Michael Wildes says he supports it but doesn’t have the authority to approve it.
“We were elected to make decisions and this is a no-brainer,” he said.
The director for the New Jersey League of Municipalities, Michael Darcy, says cities all over use murals for tourism but have to be careful.
“You don’t want to disproportionately propose new regulations on one piece of art or one sign that wouldn’t be imposed on another,” he said.
Time will tell how many committee meetings it will take until Lopez’s dream for the community comes true.
Lopez says he has already secured funding and commissioned an artist to paint the mural.
Lopez’s application for the mural has been forwarded to the Englewood Zoning Board of Adjustment for review.
The committee’s next meeting is Oct. 17.