When I was very little, you never saw graffiti. Up to the time I was about eleven or so, it wasn’t a big deal. But around 1972 or so you couldn’t avoid it. From the time that I started going to baseball games on a regular basis until the 1980’s and the MTA painting all the trains in a paint that allowed paint to be washed off and finally replacing the entire fleet of subway cars with stainless steel cars, you couldn’t ride a train that wasn’t covered in the stuff.
Tagging was old back in the 1970’s. Trust me, it got old real fast. The problems started when the Liberals wanted to “understand” criminal and antisocial behaviors rather than stating that they not something that was going to be tolerated. So vandalism was redefined as art and assumed to be victimless. Of course the liberals in charge never had to clean up the crap off their walls or ride the trains covered in the stuff.
Of course this was also the time of light policing, and such great movies as the “The Warriors” and “Death Wish.” The Libs at the top may have wanted to pal with the gangsters, but most of us cheered when Bronson shot them dead. I still get a little nervous walking through streets after dark and I’ve never had any trouble.
Like so many bad ideas, spray painting walls and trains became yet another part of the Liberal’s radical chic. Of course what it did to city life wasn’t something that the Liberals in charge at city hall paid much attention to until the problem became overwhelming. The videos below sort of capture the feel of what riding the trains was like.
The fact is that the TA invested great resources to attempt to make the trains look like something other the pit of despair and chaos. To a large extent they failed because the people on top didn’t support the TA. To say nothing of the problem that when all the graffiti was a problem the TA was struggling to just keep the trains running at all.
The need to deal with the tagging happened at the worst possible time. At a time when everything seemed to be going wrong, the tagged trains sort of emphasized that yes, indeed the city was going to hell.
Where people still tag stuff , it still looks like everything’s going to hell. Fortunately after going through about a thousand picture or so this is what I found. And most are of Five Points which doesn’t count.
Or maybe it did, because the paint and then the building are gone.
Apparently the “artists” never realized that paint on somebody else’s wall is never permanent. The owners apparently never realized that having a building covered in graffiti doesn’t make it easier to rent. So the city loses another factory to vanilla development.
Hopefully everybody will learn from the experience. I’m not holding my breath.
What’s amazing to me is that anybody would want to bring those days back. NYC is a now a nice city. At least in Manhattan. I went through all those pictures that I’ve taken in NYC looking for graffiti and surprisingly found almost none. But I suspect that that’s because 1. I spend most of my time in Manhattan doing things like shopping, 2. I am so used to graffiti that I just gloss over it when looking for stuff to shoot and 3. Manhattan gets cleaned up fairly quickly.
Outside of Manhattan it’s a different story. Just every vertical surface seems to get tagged. Almost none of it is anything that could be called art by any stretch of the imagination. Certainly almost none of it is anything that I would want on my building or business.
Still NYC seems to be the holy grail of vandalism. People seem to want to come from all over just to tag my city. Here’s a hint, people. Stay home. We don’t want your crap all over the walls even if you are “famous.” Especially stay away from the Subway. It’s dangerous and we like nice trains. We want to spend our money on new tunnels, stations and trains, not on cleaning up the mess that people come and leave.
As for our home grown set, here’s a clue, Art is something you paint or hang on your OWN wall, not something you spray on somebody else’s wall without their permission. If you’re good you don’t need to “tag.” Your stuff will do that for you. Paint on canvas, not walls.
Turns out that without graffiti, NYC is a much nicer place.