Thursday, November 17

Four Decades Later, Struggle Against Graffiti Continues

Graffiti in Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Graffiti has been a part of New York’s street scene since the late sixties, and the gradual battle between self-proclaimed graffiti artists and city administrators is still going strong. In an effort to eliminate the controversial form of self-expression from the city’s streets, the Mayor’s office presented a plan called Graffiti Free NYC in 1999. 
The program offers free graffiti removal to properties anywhere within the five boroughs - all that's needed is a form offered on the city government’s website. The requirements are fairly simple - nothing higher than the second story, and private properties only. Statistics boast that over 170 million square feet of graffiti have been cleaned since the program's inception over a decade ago.

Graffiti begun its steady climb in popularity with hip hop culture over forty years ago, and was first noted by the media in the early 1970s. In 1971, The New York Times ran an article about a local graffiti artist called TAKI 183. “Why do they go after the little guy?” the artist was quoted saying about authorities who removed his work from subway stations. “Why not the campaign organizations that put stickers all over the subways at election time?”
Since the days of TAKI 183's generation, New York’s graffiti scene has grown into a world-renowned art concept. The long-going battle between the city’s administrative parties and the artists - and those who just like to doodle on walls - first started in 1972, when Mayor Lindsay declared war against graffiti.
Since then, various mayors have encountered setbacks; the rise of world-renown street artists in the early eighties, as well as triumphs; the last graffitied subway train ran in 1989. In 1995, in one of the biggest anti-graffiti programs in the country’s history, Mayor Giuliani put together an initiative called the Anti-Graffiti Task Force. While New York’s streets are less covered in tags and pictures than they were in the early days of the graffiti movement, the war against it still far from over.

In addition to the Graffiti Free NYC program, The Mayor's Paint Program encourages communities and neighbors to take matters into their own hands and clean graffiti themselves. Once the Mayor’s office approves a removal project, they will provide the applicants with up to twenty-six gallons of paint and roller sleeves.
The program's website also encourages New Yorkers to stay alert and contact the NYPD should they see graffiti painting take place. The efforts to end graffiti do not seem to phase local artists, who have expanded their craft around the world.
“We don't advocate breaking the law,” online graffiti art gallery Art Crimes claims on their website, “but we think art belongs in public spaces and that more legal walls should be made available for this fascinating art form.”

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