The elusive graffiti artist named Banksy is wreaking havoc in New York.
To Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a large chunk of the real estate industry, Banksy is a property-destroying menace. "Running up to somebody's property or public property and defacing it is not my definition of art," the Mayor said. "Or it may be art, but it should not be permitted. And I think that's exactly what the law says."
But others see Banksy as a modern superhero, an artistic Zorro tweaking the establishment and disappearing into the night.
The British artist is in the midst of a month-long residency in New York, where he has promised to create a work a day. The work has appeared throughout the city, ranging from his trademark wall stencils to a replica of the Sphinx made of crumbled cinder block. (The work can be found on his Web site.)
Building owners who suddenly found themselves with an original Banksy on their walls didn't know how to handle their new-found art. Real estate broker Anthony Ruocco rushed to buy Plexiglass and a protective gate after he woke up this week to find Banksy had targeted his building on Coney Island.
He declined to follow other building owners and file a complaint.
"What are they filing a complaint about?" Ruocco told reporters. "The guy puts $20,000 on your wall!"
This week Banksy moved to a different level, taking a direct shot at the development industry, publishing an op-ed piece mocking the design of One World Trade Center, which he referred to as a "disaster" and "104-floors of compromise."
Banksy mocked the "mediocre" and "vanilla" design. "It looks like something they would build in Canada," he wrote. The city had missed an opportunity to create a building that represents "the city's true heritage."
"Nobody comes to New York to bathe in your well-mannered common sense," Banksy wrote. "We're here for the spirit and audacity. Of which One World Trade has none."
The piece was rejected by the New York Times, Banksy announced on his Web site. A Times spokesperson confirmed the piece had been submitted.
"We couldn't agree on either the piece or the art, so we did reject it," New York Times spokesperson Eileen Murphy told the New York Post. "What he has posted on his site is not exactly the same as what he submitted."
The Century 21 department store cancelled a planned exhibition of Banksy's work after the comments went viral.
"Due to the recent controversial comments from Banksy on WTC, C21 has just decided to cancel the exhibit," a spokeswoman announced Monday. "Sorry for the last-minute notice."
Banksy seems unbothered by the attention.
"I don't read what I believe in the papers," the artist wrote on his site.