PHOTOS: Freehold Mural Painted Over (Update)

The Freehold Borough Arts Council mural at 63 E. Main St. has been painted gray.

Update: This article was updated at 12:50 p.m. with reaction from FBAC members.

The Freehold Borough Arts Council (FBAC) mural completed two months ago has been painted over.

The property, 63 E. Main St., is the site of a proposed 7-Eleven. The , HRS Investments LLC, is currently before the Freehold Borough Planning Board. HRS Investments received approval by the Freehold Borough Code Enforcement Office in late December to .

The sections of the mural are removable and portions were . The remainder of the mural was not removed prior to the building being painted gray on Friday, Jan. 6.

In an interview with Freehold Patch after sections of the mural were removed on Friday, Dec. 30, FBAC President Neal Girandola said the arts council's main priority was the preservation of the artwork.

"I did hear from [HRS Investments' Rakesh Kumar] that he has every intention of preserving the remaining artwork," he said. "This guy's a businessman. This is his property. We were just hoping for a little bit more control over the artwork."

Girandola said the FBAC had a contract with HRS Investments that indicated the arts council was to receive 30 days notice before sections of the mural were removed from the site.

Watching the mural being painted over on Friday, Girandola was taken back.

"We had no warning of this and we don't understand it," said Girandola. "I am devastated and frustrated, it is absolutely maddening. There was no reason to do this."

Girandola continued by saying, "I think he [HRS Investments' Rakesh Kumar] made a crucial mistake by doing this. What he is doing is graffiti, it's criminal."

Other FBAC members and passersby were also upset by the painting over of the mural.

Christine Gregory, FBAC member and a Freehold resident said, "I will never buy gas at this station and if it becomes a 7-Eleven I will refuse to give it my business."

According to Girandola, the mural took about six months to paint and was completed in October. It had only been up in the borough for two months.

A call to HRS Investments' attorney for comment was not immediately returned.

The FBAC is scheduled to meet with the property owner at the site at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 7, according to Girandola. He recommended any community members who wish to share any concerns about the painting over of the mural come to the meeting.

This is a developing storyline. Freehold Patch will have more information as it becomes available.

Dan Xavier January 06, 2012 at 04:39 PM
Nice way to destroy any groundswell of community goodwill. I guess I know where I won't be going to purchase gas in Freehold Borough...
Carol January 06, 2012 at 05:02 PM
Based on past experience, the gas station would be there long anyway. Will I buy gas there? Heck, no!!!! Of course anyone would take their life in their hands to attempt to enter or exit...........
Jon Phillips January 06, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Not even a month..... The nicest thing in downtown freehold boro just got covered over with garage floor gray.... I'll be buying my gas from the guy on south st. Trying to get in & out of there is going to be a nightmare anyway
Mike January 06, 2012 at 05:30 PM
This is a sad day! I feel so bad for all the hard work and effort that just got covered up by this company. Hats off to the FBAC, even though it was only for a short time, you made an ugly abandoned site something beautiful! What kind of message did this send to all the volunteers that worked so hard on this project? A true slap in the face. I hope our Mayor and council remember this(i personally think they will). To HRS Investments' Rakesh Kumar, I hope all Freehold residents remember your lack of regard for the hours of hard work and effort that went into the mural when your new business opens, I for one would never buy anything from there! Way to steal a sense of pride and accomplishment from the man and woman and especially the children who worked on this project. Sad sad day!!!
Heather Xavier January 06, 2012 at 06:05 PM
I especially feel bad for the children that worked on this project. They were proud of their work and are now wondering why it disappeared.
Richard January 06, 2012 at 06:50 PM
That would of made a great backdrop for that gas station. Such a shame.
Jackie Condie January 06, 2012 at 06:54 PM
Small Business 101: You need the support of the local community to survive, much less thrive. I guess the folks running HRS skipped class that day. Like many people who live here, I am rather saddened to hear the news and angry at HRS for what appears to be a reckless and malicious decision to destroy the mural by painting over the panels that they knew were removable. Given that there is language about this functionality in the contract, you'd be hard pressed to make a compelling case that will convince me otherwise. Strikes me as a rather petulant response to the recent defeat at the hands of our Planning Board. Congratulations, HRS, you made your statement. And we, the people of Freehold Boro, will make ours as we drive right on by your gas station once opened.
Lisa Anderson January 06, 2012 at 07:01 PM
Way to go, HRS, good move. Total ignorance on your part. You get a big fat "F" for your painting. Too bad you don't have much "gray" matter in your heads. For the FBAC not to have been given the short time needed to preserve the painted panels shows a complete lack of regard for all the talented individulas who donated their time and effort to complete this beautiful project. If this were on Facebook, I'd press DISLIKE. And I'm sure I'm not alone in my feelings.
Lisa January 06, 2012 at 07:46 PM
This is the most purposefully contemptuous acts I have seen perpetrated by any business owner. I'm wondering how he can operate any business, much less ambulate, when he just shot himself in both feet. Well, maybe the Fates will ensure he eats a bad burger at White Castle.
David Singer January 06, 2012 at 08:37 PM
This is truly a travesty. I looked up the meaning: (to imitate or ridicule something in a grotesque or distorted manner…) - and it reflects this travesty on all levels: Local Government, the meaning and relevance of contracts, human spirit, and as far as I am concerned, Taking Action. Yes, it’s hours after the painting-over, but in my world, community, county, lawyers, police, community members, council members, politicians, business people… etc., would have been at the ‘site’ hours ago, protesting. If I had a copy of the so-called ‘contract’ I’d have been waiving it in the face of the gas station owner reminding him of agreements made. But besides that, where are the voices around here? Mayor? Council? Why are only a few FBAC members assembling at the Jester to voice their dismay, and no real restraint is being executed?? (forgive me if this is occurring as I write this – I am actually hoping that the painting can be halted in time to possibly remove only a ‘prime coat from the beautiful artwork…) And what of the months and thousands of dollars, not to mention the ‘heart’ which has gone into this - NOT to mention Matt, our loyal artist!?! So I am perplexed! Let’s get a protesting and active / legal-based body to address this. Let’s get ON-SITE NOW and voice our disapproval. Neal and attorneys: let’s get a contract to the Police Dept. if that’s possible, and confront the damage done and in progress. David
Mike January 06, 2012 at 08:56 PM
At David, with all due respect, the Mayor and council have regular jobs that I'm sure they are all at right now. I do agree that we as a town should go down there and show this man how UNHAPPY we are right now. Hopefully this action against Freehold by HRS, can lead all of us residents, no matter what party affiliation, to come together and make our voices heard. Its time for Freehold to come together, minus politics, and have one unified voice! STAND UP FREEHOLD! Lets show this man we will not take this! I for one will be heading down there to let my voice be heard!
cc January 06, 2012 at 10:19 PM
Just so upset about this. Very good friend of mine was one of the volunteers! No words can express the saddness to all, who donated there time
Kathy Mulholland January 06, 2012 at 11:24 PM
Anyone who knows me knows I've had the attitude of "his dollar, his decision" in terms of the owner's rights to put anything that the law will allow on his property. I figure I'm a pretty reasonable person, and have gone so far as to argue that a 7-Eleven would be OK, and that far worse uses could be approved for the lot by right. HOWEVER, I think the owner's actions in this particular case (the unannounced painting-over of the mural art) demonstrated an utter lack of class. Yes, it's his property, and it was nice of him to allow the mural to go up in the first place. But unfortunately the owner's disregard for any goodwill he may have earned by allowing the murals to be applied is not only lost, he's now set himself up for a very negative backlash. I can't condone his actions even if this is his "right" as property owner (not that it really matters what I think anyway!).
Nicole January 07, 2012 at 03:09 AM
This was one of the most attractive features in downtown Freehold...it represented such wonderful things past and present that Freehold represented...I think it is completely disrespectful to the artists and residents to paint over the mural without any warning...obviously HRS has nothing invested in the town of Freehold other than their greed for money...I will make it my business to never set foot on that property and plan on letting all my clients know how selfishly HRS acted in this matter
Connie Borden Applegate January 07, 2012 at 06:23 AM
Bet this guy's business doesn't do very well if he is allowed to open it. Serves him right.
Lisa Johnson January 07, 2012 at 07:53 AM
I agree with Dan. This guys comes into this town looking to open a business? And paints over that mural like it was yesterdays garbage? It will be a cold day before he gets my business. And I have a feeling that's probably going to follow with many people for miles around.
arlene January 07, 2012 at 12:52 PM
What he did makes me want to vomit! It is the most dispicable act of a vindictive, spiteful person! I too will NEVER go there, even if I were driving on fumes!
Michael Shernicoff January 07, 2012 at 01:00 PM
HRS Investment was callous in its decision and I would pose the question of wht would you give permission for this wonderful art project in 2010 to be attempted if you had the intentions of not preserving it as an expression of pride for the citizens of Freehold. Furthermore, why would you desecrate instead of embrace this expression of civic pride and proudly incorporate it into your business establishment. Instead you treated it as common urban center graffiti. A real pity
patricia hamilton January 07, 2012 at 02:34 PM
This has gone from an eyesore, to a beautiful depiction of the history and culture of the Borough back to an eyesore! Main Street's grey washed building!
Marc LeVine January 07, 2012 at 02:56 PM
Obviously, Mr. Kumar threw a temper tantrum, because he hasn't gotten his way with the Planning Board with regard to his 7-11 proposal. Was this mature behavior? What Kumar fails to remember is that in 2007, the Planning Board DID green light a beautiful two story office and retail building for him on the same site. Historic Preservation worked closely with Mr. Kumar and his designers to create a perfect "gateway" building for the Borough. It is true that the economy tanked soon after, but Kumar's disputes with neighboring property owners also played a significant role in delaying his development progress and leading to the eyesore that many Borough residents have been forced to look at every day for the past four plus years. During that time, the courts actually ordered Mr. Kumar to clean up his unsightly property. I have been told by some who know of this businessman's past track record that he is leaves alot to be desired in his commercial development business dealings. He has certainly proved that here by angering and insulting an entire community in which he wishes to do business in and with. Shame, Shame!
Jackie Condie January 07, 2012 at 03:44 PM
I hope one of the many lawyers who work in Freehold offer their services pro bono to the FBAC so that they can seek some legal remedy. Breach of contract? Destruction of private property? Vandalism? I have no clue what would "stick" as I am not a lawyer. But if Kumar wants to play the role of petulant bully, I am all for having it come back on him big time. If he had ANY decency and one iota of public relations insight, he would own up to the rash act, profusely apologize to the artists and the town, and then donate whatever that mural project cost to FBAC so that they can create something anew elsewhere in town. It will not erase what he did, but it would be a mature, "good business" step in the right direction toward making amends. Not that I think that will likely happen....
Kevin Barkley January 07, 2012 at 07:27 PM
1998 this gas station was operational. Maybe this guy will open it up again and put some business into the Boro or...... Maybe this guy ought to have Molly Pitcher's well backfilled too. Kevin Barkley F.T.H.S. Class of 1988 Alumni
Lisa January 08, 2012 at 12:35 AM
Good to see how impassioned this community is. Freehold people are the best!
Progress January 08, 2012 at 09:00 PM
A shame indeed! A business owner wants to bring a long-time eyesore back to life. He has a vision to re-energize a dilapidated property into a thriving, job-producing, local economy-boosting business. He ALLOWED a group of citizens to "beautify" his property while waiting for the wheels of our local government to turn. HE was slapped in the face by the town! What is he supposed to do? Keep allowing the local citizens and government to dictate what he SHOULD do with his business? We see how well that has worked over the years. His gas station, the place next to Cafe 360, the old Silvert's building, the old Freehold High School property, etc. Freehold has stated its anti-business stance loud and clear, "If you are a GREEDY business owner who only worries about making a living, creating jobs, and re-vitalizing blighted properties, FREEHOLD IS NOT FOR YOU!" If the murals meant that much to you, I have a suggestion. Contact the FBAC and volunteer YOUR OWN HOUSE! A town full of mural covered houses! But watch out! If someday you paint over it, the angry mob will be on its way! This man is a business owner. He is not "greedy". For some to suggest this is the real travesty. Maybe the town should shut down ALL of the GREEDY business owners. Then we could board every business up and the FBAC could have the entire Borough as their canvas!
Kathy Mulholland January 09, 2012 at 01:19 AM
Progress (if that's really your name :) ), I generally agree with your concepts. If fact, if you look at my post above, I've summarized my views. And I wouldn't try to demonize or offer hearsay to speculate on Mr. Kumar's business practices. However, he certainly knew his actions in destroying the murals were in bad faith. The murals (or at least substantial elements of it) SHOULD have been placed on removable panels; that's what I understood was the original plan. Without the removal panels, the artwork's days were numbered anyway. There's no way a franchise operation (gas station or anything else) would tolerate the visual impact of the murals; a mom&pop operation might, but such a business would not likely succeed there. But this sneak-attack approach, perhaps (depending on if there were any contractual obligations to FBAC) within his rights, isn't earning him any good-will in Freehold. It's a shame the art wasn't on removable panels that were owned by FBAC, and granted host & display license by Kumar.
Richard Berger January 09, 2012 at 03:13 AM
@Progress. The owner had a contract with FBAC, which allowed for the mural and stipulated a 30 day period in which the FBAC would have an opportunity to remove the mural (it was intentional painted on removeable boards for this purpose.) Furthermore, I believe the property owner was beneficiary of a tax deduction because he allowed his property to be used by a non profit organization. So for the months that the mural was there, and worked on, it is also a financial plus for Mr. Kumar. It was a win/win. Now the FBAC was very much in favor of working with him in whatever way possible, if he would like to conitue using the mural, or if he thought it best, the FBAC would again remove the panels. The issue here is that he broke his contract with FBAC by not only allowing them to remove the panels (which his lawyer even states in the APP article), but also by destroying the property which he allowed the FBAC to put on his property for his tax deduction. One last point, the FBAC is not in anyway a government organization and is not sponsered financially, legally or by any other means by Freehold Borough. It is non political. It is a non profit organization comprised of residents. So whatever the government does regarding greedy or non greedy business owners should not be taked out on the organization, its property, or as a statement to the borough's residents who support the group.
Jeanine January 01, 2013 at 03:24 PM
just to go on record i have not and will not get gas there no matter what the price. they made it ugly gray and with no meaning. i hope they leave for this 2013 if they have not planned to already. i try to pretend its not even there.
Carol January 01, 2013 at 03:31 PM
Yesterday, Dec 31st, 2012, I rode by that gas station. There was 1 car getting gas. Does anyone know how well ( or not ) that station is doing? There isn't a day I ride by and don't see those murals in my mind. Personally, I don't believe there is a person in Freehold who buys gas there, but I could be wrong. I know I won't!


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