Twenty-Eight Years Ago, The MTA Thought They Beat Graffiti

On May 12, 1989, New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority took the last graffitied subway car out of service. The car was on the C line and was removed from service within 24 hours of being tagged, in keeping with MTA’s graffiti policy.

”When you’re sitting in a graffiti-covered car, you don’t feel safe,” said David L. Gunn, the president of the Transit Authority at the time.

Numerous attempts had been made to stop writers from getting up on trains during the MTA’s 18-year war with graffiti artists. In 1976, New York spent $20 million on chemical buff, which turned beautiful pieces into a gray steel mess. In 1981, Mayor Ed Koch put guard dogs and ten foot high fences in yards. Of course bombers found their way around that by simply cutting holes in the fences and distracting dogs with food. 

In 1983, the MTA painted all its trains white. All that really did was create a fresh new canvas.

Even after the MTA wiped over 6,245 train cars clean and declared the battle won, train bombing continued well into the late ’90s. Many writers continued to hit trains despite the limited exposure they would receive. One of the most popular tactics were to hit trains temporarily parked in stations.

With trains no longer running with pieces, graffiti writers in New York shifted away from the subway and began bombing on the streets. Unlike train graffiti, street bombing is still booming in New York today. 

Today, a graffitied subway car is a rare sight in New York City. Bombing MTA property carries potential felony charges of criminal mischief and heavy fines. Yet some ballsy writers have kept the culture alive today.

Check out our Daily Operation video above and shouts out to anyone hitting clean NYC subway trains in 2017.

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