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Graffiti, like many other forms of creative expression, conjures up that long unresolved, age-old question: "What is art?" Apparently many do not think graffiti rates high on that list. But, has our concern to end this eyesore clouded our judgment or led to an overreaction? Judging by a set of tough new graffiti laws passed by the City of New York, we think it has. In the April 2006 edition of our firm's newsletter, we addressed the adoption of these laws and how they impact the City's property owners. Our focus here has to do with how these laws impact the young, particularly those under the age of 21.
New York State already had laws in the books aimed at curbing graffiti. According to our penal law, it is a misdemeanor to be in possession of "graffiti instruments" with the "intent" to use the instruments to damage property. The recent amendments to the City's Administrative Code make it illegal for anyone under 21 years of age to "possess" any graffiti instruments, unless they have the property owner's permission, or are carrying the instruments to or from a place of employment. No "intent" to use the instruments for an illicit purpose is needed in order to be found in violation of the City's law. Aerosol spray paint cans, indelible markers and other types of sketching tools are prohibited. With courts, such as the New York City Criminal Court, concluding that even a "Sharpie" marker comprises a "graffiti instrument," and with convictions carrying a $250 fine, imprisonment of 15 days, or both, a more careful scrutiny of this law's impact is clearly warranted.
Some critics have expressed concern for those students who carry their supplies to and from school. In a city with a number of art and design institutions of higher learning, there are thousands of students, under the age of 21, who may be subject to prosecution. Interestingly, while the new law exempts those who are carrying "graffiti instruments" to and from a place of employment, there is no similar exemption for those traveling to and from school. Either our political leaders have forgotten about our city's artistic youth, or have concluded that our young people are not to be trusted with their art supplies. That strikes us as nonsensical and unfair.
Reactions to this new law have been vociferous and widespread, ranging from outrage to disbelief. Some commentators speculate that the law will lead to new forms of "profiling." For instance, will police now single out and search young people who look like they might be carrying art supplies? And pray tell, what does such a miscreant even look like?
For a copy of our firm's April newsletter, please click on the following link:
To read the new anti-graffiti amendments to the New York City Administrative Code, click on the link below: