The Kentile Floors sign may soon be erased from the Gowanus skyline, but it is not coming off of this guy’s back any time soon.
Soft-spoken Australian statistician David Dyte might not seem like a likely standard bearer for Brooklyn’s iconography, but look under his shirt and you will find a veritable atlas of borough landmarks in tattoo form, including a shoulder-wide depiction of the rooftop sign that is being dismantled and has not yet found a new home. The inked-up borough enthusiast said he would rather take in the landmark from the Smith–Ninth Street subway station platform than over his shoulder in the mirror.
“It’s really a relic of old New York,” Dyte said. “It’s great where it is, so why not leave it there?”
Dyte may be a transplant to Brooklyn, but he has embraced the borough with the zeal of a convert. Originally from rural Australia, he followed his heart to Manhattan in 1999 after falling in love on a vacation and he hopped the East River in 2002. An amateur photographer, Dyte first saw the Kentile sign before moving to Brooklyn, when a friend told him about the gorgeous view from the Smith-Ninth stop. One of the snapshots he took that day ended up providing the blueprint for the Kentile Floors tattoo he now sports on his rear shoulder. The sign on his back looms large over a Smith–Ninth scene re-arranged to fit an F train curving photogenically into the station.
The skin-art tour of the borough does not stop there. A mid-back street map of Downtown, pre-MetroTech Center, stitches the Gowanus image to pictures of the Cyclone roller coaster and Borough Hall. The back-spanning artwork took more than a year for tattooist Kati Vaughn to complete, spaced out over 10 painful sittings.
“I’m not good with the pain, but I like the results,” Dyte said.
The owner of the real-life building the iconic Kentile Floors sign sits atop started demolishing the sign this month, but reached a tentative compromise last Thursday with neighbors eager to preserve it. Under the deal, the letters will be entrusted to the care of the Gowanus Alliance, a pro-business group, while preservationists seek a new perch. How the letters will preserved is unclear as the permit calls for them to be dropped down a garbage chute, according to the New York Times, and erecting it on another rooftop is a pricey proposition. However things turn out, Dyte is sure going to miss looking at that sign.
“I’m very, very sad they’re taking it down,” Dyte said. “It just makes the whole view. Hopefully they’ll put it up somewhere visible.”