Vandals deface 9-11 mural

The late Peter Bielfeld’s desecrated memorial mural, at Olinville and Thwaits Place, will finally be restored. - Photo by Adam Bermudez

As America prepared to celebrate Memorial Day, one graffiti vandal chose to dishonor the country and its heroes by defacing a mural honoring Bronx firefighter Peter Alexander Bielfeld. 

Originally designed in 2002 to honor the local resident who died saving lives on 9/11, the painting at Olinville Avenue and Thwaites Place has been desecrated with the illegible writings of a local vandal going by the name SIPS. 

“No graffiti is acceptable, but this is a real slap in the face to Peter Bielfeld and the men and women who died that day,” said 49th Precinct Community Affairs Officer Victor DiPierro. 

Joining the fire department in 1982, Bielfeld worked at Ladder Company 42 on Prospect Avenue.

On September 11, 2001, while on medical leave, Bielfeld could not sit back as a tragedy unfolded and once again returned to the field. After borrowing gear from the station, he left a note at his locker designating the uniform’s return to the proper owner, as well as requesting the note be brought to his family – should the worst happen.

Unfortunately it did, and Bielfeld never returned home, like many others that day. 

DiPierro, who successfully fought a battle with cancer he feels he developed from working at Ground Zero, has spent his life, fighting graffiti.  He still can’t understand how someone could deface a mural designed to honor a national tragedy. 

“There are murals all along this community that go untouched for years,” he said, “but this is the third 9/11 mural to be defaced.  Maybe it’s ignorance.  I don’t have the answers, but you have to have lived in a bubble to forget what happened that day.”

The first instance occurred almost two years to the day, when on May 19, 2006, a mural of the Twin Towers at Emilio’s Pizza on Morris Park and Hone avenues was defaced and eventually restored by students from the local School of the Visual Arts.

The culprit, who went by the name SNEZ, became a target of DiPierro’s until the 14-year-old responsible for the heinous vandalism was arrested; punished by the law and his parents. 

DiPierro plans on following a similar approach in looking for SIPS.  “I will be going to local schools to zero in on this kid,” he said.  “But it’s not about crucifying him.  Maybe I can get through to him; educate him on why what he did was wrong.”

In the meantime, along with the NYPD’s $500 reward, DiPierro and his wife are kicking in an additional $250 for information leading to SIPS’ capture.

 At the same time, the 49th Precinct will use leftover money from a City Council grant aimed at graffiti removal, to help restore the wall in honor of Bielfeld. 

The precinct, along with Ladder Company 42, will donate the $300-$400 necessary for the original mural artist, Eddie Gonzalez, to once again pay tribute to the fallen Bronx hero. 

“My first impression was shock,” the Mott Haven artist said upon hearing the news.  “I felt really hurt because these are our fallen heroes.  They put their lives on the line.”

Gonzalez immediately jumped at the opportunity to honor the fallen hero once more. 

While the 48-year-old artist admitted his own participation with graffiti as a youth in the south Bronx, he assured that he’s always strived for positivity with his art. He said he thinks the recent graffiti was a misjudgment on the part of kids who didn’t realize the severity of 9-11.  

“I wish they could utilize their talents in something more positive,” Gonzalez said.  “A lot of these kids are looking for attention. It’s like, ‘Look at me, look what I did.’”  

Gonzalez will take approximately a week to redesign the mural; after which, a special coating will be painted over the design to make future attacks easily discarded with a simple washing that will not destroy the mural. 

Pelham Parkway residents are looking forward to the fresh painting and hope it comes soon to erase the blight that has replaced the old memorial.

“It makes my heart sick that someone would deface something that important,” Thwaites Place resident Kay Cardona said, adding that she was happy to hear the news of the memorial’s repainting.  “People walk by every day that lost people.  It’s like they are mocking the victims’ families.”

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