The Department of Transportation thinks your graffiti is vulgar, and will power-wash it into oblivion until New York City is restored to the sparkling shiny gem it once was. At least, that seemed to be the general message at this morning’s press conference with DOT commissioner Polly Trottenberg, held under an overpass of the Manhattan Bridge in Chinatown.
While the subway thundered above every five minutes, making everyone below periodically wince from the overbearing rumble, Commissioner Trottenberg explained how the DOT was working closely with the city’s Economic Development Corporation, which received almost $7 million for its new clean-up crews, to “have New York be both safe and clean.”
In February, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans to increase the size of the Graffiti-Free NYC program. But a recent New York Post item claimed that the DOT was running out of funding for the program because of de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan, a claim Commissioner Trottenberg denied this morning.
“The city’s graffiti efforts have been constant until this year, actually, where the mayor has added, as I said, almost $7 million for new EDC cleaning crews,” she stated. “The mayor has said that he wants a city that is safe and clean, and it’s no question that Vision Zero is a big priority, both for the Department of Transportation and for the city, but the mayor also is a believer in the Broken Windows theory, and is investing in graffiti cleanup.”
Commissioner Trottenberg emphasized that the DOT spends around $1 million a year tackling graffiti, particularly around bridges and overpasses, which fall under the agency’s jurisdiction, and aims to remove tags from 4.5 million square feet of city space per year.
Meanwhile, the cleaning crew was busy blasting a few isolated scribbles of paint with power-washers after having covered them while a foul-smelling chemical that had the color and consistency of molasses. Cesar Pazmino, the supervisor for bridge maintenance, explained that the chemical was called Taginator (seriously), and that after letting the chemical react with the paint for a while, cleaning crews go at it with their massive yellow pressure cleaners. Just a couple of steps away, two old Chinese ladies were haggling with a couple of customers over a vat of live crabs, unperturbed by the large yellow trucks trying to drown out their vigorous negotiating.
In case you were worried that your favorite “Trump as a dump” mural will bite the dust along with lazy underpass scrawls, James Katz, chief of staff at the NYC Economic Development Corporation, noted back in February that sanctioned street art won’t be a target. Commissioner Trottenberg assured us that “generally, people are always hoping to see graffiti removed,” and that “people have seen the importance [of graffiti removal] in the resurgence of the city of New York.” If you say so, Commissioner. Just leave our Banksys and Hanksys alone, yes?