GRAFFITI & DELAYS

Subway graffiti is back in a big way and so are train delays and commuter concerns.

Aired on September 9, 2019. 

TRANSCRIPT

> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.

SUBWAY GRAFFITI MAKING A COMEBACK.

ACCORDING TO A NEW REPORT BY THE NEW LOCAL INDEPENDENT PUBLICATION 'THE CITY' THE MTA HAS SPENT MORE ON GRAFFITI CLEANUPS LAST YEAR THAN THE LAST TWO.

HOW DO WE AVOID GOING BACK TO THE BAD OLD DAYS OF VANDALS?

HERE IS JOSE MARTINEZ, SENIOR REPORTER AT THE CITY.

JOSE, WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

I APPRECIATE THE INVITE.

FIRST, LET'S START OFF WITH HOW MUCH MORE THE CITY HAS BEEN SPENDING ON CLEANING UP THESE TRAINS.

WELL, THE MTA IN 2018 SPENT MORE THAN $600,000.

THAT IS A 364% INCREASE FROM JUST TWO YEARS EARLIER.

NOW THE FIGURES HAVE TRENDED DOWN IN 2019.

THAT'S AN EFFORT ON CUTTING BACK ON SOME OF THIS.

BURY THAT'S AN ALARMING JUMP.

AND A LOT OF IT IS DRIVEN REALLY BY THE TAGGERS WANTING TO GET THEIR WORK SEEN ON SOCIAL MEDIA.

FIRST OF ALL, WHY IT IS NECESSARY TO KEEP THE GRAFFITI OFF THE TRAINS?

BECAUSE A LOT OF PEOPLE WILL SAY THIS IS AN ART FORM.

THESE ARE ARTISTS.

THIS IS PART OF THE FABRIC AND THE ESSENCE OF NEW YORK.

WELL, IT'S SOMEWHAT OF A RETURN TO THE BAD OLD DAYS, IF YOU WILL.

AND IT'S ASSOCIATED BY THE MTA AND THE TRANSIT BUREAU OF THE NYPD OF BEING LINKED WITH THOSE DAYS WHEN SERVICE WAS SO POOR, WHEN CRIME WAS HIGH IN THE SUBWAY, WHEN RIDERSHIP WAS WAY DOWN BECAUSE PEOPLE DIDN'T WANT TO GO IN A SYSTEM THAT WASN'T AS INVITING AS ONE THAT IS SOMEWHAT CLEANER.

SO FOR THAT REASON.

AND THEN THERE ARE COSTS ASSOCIATED WITH WIPING THOSE TRAINS CLEAN.

SO IT'S SOMETHING THAT THE MTA JUST DOESN'T WANT TO ENCOURAGE, BUT THAT THE TAGGERS, THOSE THAT THE NYPD WOULD CALL VANDALS WANT TO GET OUT.

IT'S DIFFERENT FROM BACK IN THE '70s AND '80s WHERE A TRAIN WOULD ROLL ACROSS AN ELEVATED LINE AND IT WOULD BE SEEN BY PEOPLE, AND THEN IT WENT OUT THE UNDERGROUND MOVEMENT ACROSS THE WORLD TO NOW JUST ON SOCIAL MEDIA.

THAT'S THE WAY TO GET THEIR WORK OUT THERE.

BUT IT'S QUITE UNPOPULAR WITH THE MTA.

THIS IS ACTUALLY THE FAULT OF SOCIAL MEDIA THAT WE'RE SEEING THIS GRAFFITI COME BACK?

LIKE SO MANY.

MAKE SURE WE'RE BLAMING THE RIGHT ENTITY.

THERE.

ARE A LOT OF FEEDS ON INSTAGRAM WHERE YOU WILL SEE THE WORK OF TAGGERS.

AND I SPOKE WITH SOME VETERAN GRAFFITI FOLKS, AND THEY SAY THIS IS OBVIOUSLY NOT THE WORK OF PEOPLE FROM NEW YORK.

IT'S NOT THE LOOK THAT IS NATIVE TO THE CITY.

IT'S VERY DIFFERENT, AND THEY SAY THEY WANT NOTHING TO DO WITH IT NOW, BUT THAT IT'S DRAWING PEOPLE FROM SPAIN.

IT'S DRAWING PEOPLE FROM AUSTRALIA.

AND SO WHAT THE NYPD AND WHAT MTA SECURITY DO IS TRY AND KEEP AN EYE ON THE YARDS AND ON THE LAYUP AREAS WHERE THESE TRAINS GET HIT.

BUT IT'S VERY DIFFICULT.

IT'S A HUGE SYSTEM.

IT'S HARD TO PATROL EVERY INCH.

AND A LOT OF TIMES TRAINS ARE STORED UNDERGROUND AND THEY'RE RIPE FOR THE PICKING FOR THESE FOLKS.

THE CITY HAS EMBRACED GRAFFITI AS AN ART FORM IN SOME RESPECTS, IS THAT CORRECT?

WELL, YOU NEED LOOK NO FURTHER THAN THE ONE TRAIN PASSAGEWAY AT NINTH STREET.

THAT WAS A DARK, DECREPIT PASSAGEWAY AND QUITE FRANKLY PRETTY FRIGHTENING TO WALK THROUGH THERE.

SO A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO, THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION COMMISSIONED A BUNCH OF ARTISTS TO DO GRAFFITI IN THAT PASSAGEWAY.

NOW IT'S BEEN A COUPLE OF YEARS, SO SOME OF IT HAS BEEN DONE OVER AND MESSED WITH, BUT IT CERTAINLY DID MAKE IT MORE INVITING.

A LOT OF THE OLD-TIME GRAFFITI FOLKS, THEY'VE BECOME LEGITIMATE ARTISTS.

LOOK AT TATS CREW OUT OF THE BRONX.

THEY'VE MADE BIG MONEY GOING COMMERCIAL.

THERE ARE OTHER I CITED IN THAT ARTICLE WHO HAVE GONE ON TO BECOME ARTISTS IN THEIR OWN RIGHT, TAKING IT FROM THE SUBWAY OUT OF THE SUBWAY AND INTO A MONEY MAKING VENTURE.

SO AGAIN, WHY IS IT SO NECESSARY TO CLEAN THESE TRAINS?

PEOPLE HAVE VERY FEW OPTIONS WHEN IT COMES TO GETTING AROUND THE CITY.

THEY'RE GOING TO RIDE THE SUBWAYS.

SURE.

WHAT YOU DON'T WANT TO ENCOUNTER IS A DELAY BECAUSE A TRAIN IS TAKEN OUT OF SERVICE AND IT AFFECTS THE RIDING PUBLIC.

MANY PEOPLE WOULD SAY KEEP IT GOING, LET THE TRAINS GO THROUGH THAT ARE TAGGED, BUT THAT'S NOT SOMETHING THE MTA WANTS.

THAT'S NOT SOMETHING THE NYPD WANTS.

YOU HAVE TO CONSIDER THE HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS THAT THE CITY SPENT BACK IN THE 1970s AND '80s TO FINALLY PURGE THE SYSTEM OF GRAFFITI BY 1989.

THAT'S AN ANNIVERSARY THAT'S CELEBRATED AT THE MTA.

AND THE FIGURES THAT WENT UP 2016 TO 2018.

AGAIN, 364% INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF GRAFFITI INCIDENTS.

THAT'S SOMETHING THEY DO NOT WANT TO CELEBRATE.

I DID NOT KNOW THAT 1989 YEAR WAS THE PIVOTAL YEAR FOR THE MTA.

IT WAS.

THE C TRAIN HIT THE LAST STOP, WENT TO THE SHOWERS AND THAT WAS IT FOR GRAFFITI IN THE SYSTEM.

OF COURSE, WE'RE ALREADY HEARING THAT THE MTA IS PROPOSING ANOTHER FARE HIKE, ET CETERA.

THIS SOMETHING THAT OUR FARE DOLLARS ARE GOING TO BE PAYING FOR?

WHAT IF PEOPLE ARE SAYING I DON'T REALLY CARE.

I DON'T SEE WHAT THE BIG DEAL.

WHY DO I HAVE TO KEEP SHELLING OUT MORE MONEY FOR SOMETHING THAT SOME OF THE PUBLIC MIGHT CONSIDER FRIVOLOUS.

I SHOULD POINT OUT THAT SOME OF THESE PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN ARRESTED, THESE VANDALS, HAVE BEEN FORCED TO PAY RESTITUTION AS PART OF THEIR PUNISHMENT.

SO THAT'S SOMETHING TO KEEP IN MIND.

BUT IT IS NOT CHEAP TO CLEAN A SUBWAY CAR THAT IS A COST TO THE MTA.

THEY OBVIOUSLY WANT TO KEEP THAT DOWN.

AND TO HAVE IT GO UP, AS IT DID IN 2018 FROM TWO YEARS EARLIER, IT'S GOT TO BE AN ALARMING FIGURE.

SO WHEN IT COMES TO THE REPORT THAT AT LEAST YOU WERE ABLE TO DO AND ALL THE INFORMATION YOU WERE ABLE TO GET ABOUT THE CLEANING OF THE TRAINS AND THE MAINTAINING OF THEM, WHAT IS SOMETHING THAT AT LEAST STOOD OUT MOST TO YOU ABOUT THE AMOUNT OF TIME AND MONEY THAT WAS BEING INVESTIGATED IN THIS?

WELL, IT'S STRIKING.

THAT INCREASE IS STRIKING BECAUSE AS I SAID, IN 1989, THE MTA HAS THIS ANNIVERSARY WHICH HAS BEEN CELEBRATED AS THE LAST TIME THAT CARS ROLLED THROUGH THE SYSTEM, TRAINS TAGGED IN GRAFFITI.

NOW IT'S AN UNDERGROUND THING AGAIN.

BUT ON SOCIAL MEDIA, IT'S NOT.

AND PEOPLE TAKE PICTURES, AND IT GETS OUT THERE.

SO THAT'S HOW IT CAME TO MY ATTENTION.

AND THEN WHEN I HEARD THOSE FIGURES, THEY JUMPED OUT AT ME.

LET'S BE FAIR HERE.

IT'S NOT THE 1970s.

IT'S NOT THE 1980s.

BUT IT'S NOT MONEY THAT THE MTA NEEDS TO BE SPENDING AT THIS POINT WHEN THERE ARE SO MANY OTHER CONCERNS IN TERMS OF SERVICE.

CERTAINLY NOT.

WELL, NOW THAT WE'VE GOT THE NEW HUDSON YARDS OPEN AND THAT BEAUTIFUL ARTISTIC STAIRCASE, SO MANY OTHER THINGS TO POST ON SOCIAL MEDIA WOULD BE MY POINT, OTHER THAN JUST YOUR TAG ON A TRAIN.

WE'LL SEE IF THIS CURBS ANY OF THE BEHAVIOR.

JOSE, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING ME ON THE PROGRAM.

MY PLEASURE.

THANK YOU.

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