Graffiti: An Art or a Crime?

As one travels around the city of New York, he or she may begin to notice that graffiti is all around them, whether it’s in a form of a mural or a simple tag. Some believe that it is a category of art with a unique medium. Others, however, strongly disagree with the idea that graffiti is an art, and instead consider it as vandalism. Graffiti has become a huge problem in New York City to many. It falls under a category of deviance because it is considered a socially unaccepted behavior that violates the norms of society. Graffiti has been viewed as disorder and a sign of social degradation.

There was a rise in graffiti during the 1960s and 1970s in New York City. It emerged as a major issue, carried out by young people, especially those of poor non-white families (Vitale 88). It has cost a great deal of money to restore property ruined by tags and murals on public transportation and buildings. Since this upsurge, the government has taken many measures to regulate vandalism. According to Alex Vitale’s City of Disorder, urban liberalism, in which there was a rise in the middle class, didn’t produce effective results to restore order in regards to graffiti (Vitale 73). One way the government responded to vandalism was by creating strict policies as a part of the “quality of life” development (Vitale 2). William Bratton, commissioner at the New York Police Department, and his fellow members enacted new tactics against crimes. One of them is known as “Reclaiming the Public Spaces of New York,” which addresses the crime of graffiti as an illegal act that should be controlled by punitive policies (Vitale 45). NYPD statistics show that reports on property crime rates, which include graffiti, have decreased by 24.8% in the past ten years ( The government continues to address this quality of life issue by creating new programs, such as the Citywide Vandals Taskforce ( Their mission is to monitor and prevent vandalism in the five boroughs. They have joined with the Transit Bureau, especially because a great number of vandalism is still found in the city’s public transportation. Citizens are able to report damaged property due to graffiti by calling 311. This taskforce continues to enhance their program by creating new ways and tools to track and control graffiti ( There is also an “Eagle Team”, consisting of men and women who work to protect the property of others and reduce the practice of graffiti. Ever since the establishment of the Eagle Team, vandalism rates have been reduced by more than 54% ( The NYPD offers a $500 award to anyone who knows information on vandals and it has handed out thousands of “Combating Graffiti” posters and brochures (Police Chief Magazine).

Although I agree with most of the policies that the city is enforcing, I also believe that graffiti should not be completely restricted. Strict laws should be imposed on damage to personal property, such as tagging a store window. However, opening up places and warehouses specifically designated for graffiti artists would be a great idea. It is neither damaging personal property nor it is illegal since the owner would allow it. A tactic like this could possibly decrease vandalism if places such as 5Pointz opened up around the city. This way, graffiti artists would have a place to put up their work instead of having to resort to illegal vandalism.

Works Cited Index Crimes Reported to Police by Region: 2002-2011.” N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2012.


“ MTA’s Eagle Team.” N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2012.


“” NYPD – Crime Prevention. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2012.


“Police Chief Magazine – View Article.” Police Chief Magazine – View Article. N.p., n.d.

Web. 24 Oct. 2012.


Vitale, Alex S. City of Disorder: How the Quality of Life Campaign Transformed New

York Politics. New York, NY: New York UP, 2008. Print


5 Pointz Reaction Post

Jane Soliternik

My favorite trip that I took as a freshman in St. John’s is the 5 Pointz trip because it was truly inspirational and it opened my mind to a whole new perspective. I used to appreciate graffiti, but not as much as I started to after visiting the place. I have never seen graffiti like this before. It ranged from portraits to landscapes, words to phrases. The artwork was incredibly beautiful. Every artist portrayed some sort of message in their work, like one in particular that depicted an emotional scene from beauty and the beast. As an artist, I usually stick to acrylic, oil. or water color painting on canvas, but I have been wanting to try a new medium and 5 Pointz is the perfect place. I was encouraged to perhaps put up one of my own pieces someday. Unfortunately, I was shocked when I heard about 5 Pointz possibly being closed down. More people should see this type of graffiti as an important piece of art that characterizes our era. We conserved the sculptures, monuments, and columns that characterized the height of the Greek and Roman Empires, and the Romantic paintings of the French Renaissance Era. Why shouldn’t we conserve the warehouse that characterizes the era we are living in right now instead of destroying it?

For this field report I was excited because it was much different than any other school assignment I’ve ever had. Also, I’m a very outgoing person so I didn’t really have a problem talking to strangers. This field report taught me a lot about communicating with different types of people in our society. During this assignment I tried to get people who would give me different reactions to make this report more entertaining. Luckily I was able to find some very interesting candidates who were willing to participate, whether they were happy about it or not. The first person I interviewed was an old man in my neighborhood. He seemed very intriguing and seemed like he had hundreds of stories waiting to tell me. I approached him  while he was cleaning his car. I knew this would be a great candidate for this project because we obviously shared an interest in cars and he had a 1972 de tommaso pantera. This is a very rare car that was sold by ford but was imported from italy. This was a great conversation starter for me and he turned out to be an extremely interesting guy. While we were talking i noticed that was very comfortable talking about his car with me especially because he knew how much i appreciates it. He actually told me the while story of how he originally bought the car and we actually had a great conversation. This was a very pleasant encounter with a stranger and he really taught me alot about the car. He also was a great example of how people with similar interests can go from strangers to friends after a 20 minute conversation.

The second person i encountered was a slightly different experience for me. I was in marillac eating and everyday i see the same guy walking aimlessly around the room and sItting down for a few minutes and then runs over to the soda machine as of he was looking for someone but never actually finds them. This was somewhat comical because he would literally do this everyday . I decided to just start a conversation with him without mentioning the assignment. He seemed way to happy to be talking to a stranger and was a little creepy. He was trying to become best friends with me and he was making me uncomfortable so i told him this was just for an assignment. This encounter was very awkward because this guy seemed way too excited to talk to strangers and had a weird tendency to walk around marillac staring at people. Nonetheless it was a very different and interesting encounter with a stranger.

For my last encounter i stopped and talked to a guy on the side of the road asking for change. People who do this have always brought curiosity to me so I decided to stop and ask him some questions. Usually these people are supposedly trying to raise money for kids with a disability or something but this one was different When  i asked him what he was asking money for he said “i’m not gonna lie im just broke and have nothing else to do”. This caught me bu surprise because moat people would never admit to doing something like that even if they were. I began to ask him why he was so honest with me and he Continued to tell me how hes embarrased but I resoected the fact that he was honest with me so I gave him a coubke of bucks and drove off. This encounter was another different encounter for me and even though the guy was embarrassed that he was asking for money I respected that. He was even willing to talk to me about his situation because of the way I responded to him and he seemed glad that someone wasn’t telling him he’s a loser and to get a job for once.

I learned a lot from the people I me for this report. The main thing I learned was that when encountering strangers you should always show them respect and they Will often give it in return. My three encounters were very different but the most interesting one was definitely the first. The most entertaining was definitely the second because the guy was a little too friendly and began to creep me out. Overall this field report taught me that when encountering strangers you should try and find common ground with them and you could always learn something from strangers.




Negotiating Public Space

Public Space is constantly being “negotiated”, and there are many social norms that we do not even realize exist. These social norms occur every day all around us and we never really take the time to notice them. A great place where public space is being negotiated would be right on St. John’s campus itself. These social norms vary through different parets of the campus and it fascinated me how much I never realized or took the time to acknowledge.

The first place I observed was Taffner Field House. Everyone goes to Taffner to play basket ball normally however there are designated times when one side of Taffner is used for volleyball. When this happened I noticed that there was a lot of tension between the regulars who came in hope to get a quick game of basketball in before or after class and the people who were playing volleyball. I thought this would not be a problem and that we were all old enough to understand the concept of sharing the gym, however this was not the case. Rather than allowing them to play volleyball in peace, the players usually just go onto the court and start shooting around completely disregarding the volleyball game that was going on. This lack of sharing of public space in Taffner really shocked me and I thought that students at our University would be mature enough to share the space for the 3 or so hours that the volleyball players had. Another norm that I discovered in Taffner was how the gym was segregated based on skill level of each individual player. The right side of the gym was mainly taken up by people who were really skilled and played a full court 5 on 5 game meanwhile the other side was taken up by people who were not as good and just wanted a quick little pick up game. The Public Space in Taffner was negotiated fairly poorly and unfairly to people who were not interested in playing basketball which fascinated me.

The next place I observed was the D’angelo Center, better known as DAC. I usually go to DAC to hangout and get some food and play some games in the basement. I noticed that people were much more friendly in DAC than in Taffner, probably because DAC is a place to hangout and eat while Taffner has a more competitive atmosphere. I saw that many people were friendly in the eating area and didn’t really see anything outstanding. Something I did see was if someone was sitting alone a table, and someone else couldn’t find as eat, there was no problem with them sitting at the same table with a complete stranger and from what I saw actually made a connection and became friendly with one another. I also went into the orientation leaders headquarters to see my Orientation leader, and in the offices I saw that everyone was very friendly and willing to help out each other with homework or even personal problems. Everyone was usually sitting around each other in the huge office and it was normal for them because they are all so close with each other. I saw some very positive social norms in DAC, and observed a lot of new friends being made.

Public space is shared in many different ways on St. John’s campus. It ranges from a seemingly hostile and competitive atmosphere in Taffner Field House, to a Friendly and social atmosphere in the D’angelo Center. It is extremely interesting how differently public space is shared in different parts of our campus and it shows how a sport or hobby can affect the overall sharing of space in certain areas.

Reaction Blog: Ellis Island

Ellis Island is definitely one of the most important places in New York City and played a huge roll in how the city developed into what it is today. Ellis Island was  basically the gateway into the city for immigrants from all over the globe in the late 19th century and the early 20th century. I’ve visited the Island multiple times but this was definitely the my best experience there. I’m not sure if I have any relatives that came through Ellis Island because my grandfather’s last name was most likely changed from the original when his relatives came to America.

The main reasons that this trip was the most enjoyable for me was because of the great weather we had, and the opportunity it gave me to socialize with my peers. The previous times I visited Ellis island it was rainy and cold which kind of took away from the experience of the ferry ride to the island and the Statue of Liberty didn’t look as majestic in the rain. Another thing I notice was different was that they had finished up the construction that was being done when I went there originally. I do have some complaints with the construction they did. I think they did a great job of making a museum out of the main building, however I think that it takes away from the experience seeing all the newly finished displays. I wish they would have left more original rooms to look into and explore. My favorite parts of the building were definitely the large hall and the sleeping quarters. These two exhibits were extremely eye-opening, especially the dorms where these massive bunk beds were shown. I was shocked at the living conditions in the buildings, and seeing the bunk beds made of metal did not seem to be the most comfortable living quarters for those immigrants.

Another thing that was different about this trip was different encounters I had with peple on the trip. On the bus ride to the island I got a chance to talk to some of my classmates who I had not talked to yet. Also, while standing on line to board the ferry there was a man playing music for the crowd and he decides to pick on me. He asked me if I had a “lady” and when I responded no he said he had a sister for me living out in Brooklyn who was about my size. This was definitely a moment I will remember from that trip because it was so funny and   random, and also made the long wait a little more bearable.

This trip to Ellis Island was definitely the best one. We got to take some great pictures of the statue of liberty and got to examine some of the great artifacts they had on display.

Encountering Strangers

When I heard Professor Nicole Hala say that we would have to talk to strangers and ask them a question, I immediately thought about the scene from the movie 21 Jump Street when David Franco says “Everyone’s a stranger till you give them a chance.” Even though this statement was mentioned in a comedic context, it does not take away from its validity.  When you encounter a stranger you don’t know a single thing about them.  But, somehow they ended up in the same place that you did at that single moment in time.  One major thing that you might now know about them is how they have been affected by local or national events.  That is why I decided to ask strangers about how they were affected by Hurricane Sandy. 

            Thankfully, my family and I weren’t really impacted by the Hurricane much.  The Verizon Fios connection went down; therefore, we did not have wi-fi or television for about three days and the power was gone for a maximum of eight hours.  At first I thought the storm was a repeat of Hurricane Irene which had been over hyped by the media.  However, after checking up on a few friends and family, I realized the damage it had done.

            The day after the hurricane, which was a Wednesday, I went to hang out with a few of my friends.  One of my friends needed to pick up a few things from Wal-Mart so I decided to tag along.  I noticed that there were an unusual amount of people there.  I started talking to a middle aged man who was there with his wife and two young kids.  The kids were running around and the mother was off in another part of the store.  He mentioned to us that he was at Wal-Mart because his house still did not have power since Monday and it was nice to take his kids to a place that had power even though it was Wal-Mart.  After that I asked him if there was any damage done to his house.  He replied that parts of the fence had been knocked down and the tree in the yard had fallen, but, they were lucky that it missed the house. 

            The second person I interviewed was a fellow classmate who I wasn’t acquainted with.  He had been showing up late to class for a few days since the hurricane, so, I wondered if it was because of the hurricane or not.  At the end of the class I asked him and found out that he was a commuter like me.  He lived in East Rockaway and as we had seen in the video in class, that part of New York had been devastated by the hurricane.  He told me that the trains were still not fully functional yet and that he had been having a lot of trouble getting to school. I followed up by asking if there was any damage to his house.  He told me that his house was fine.  This came as a shock seeing that area had experienced massive flooding.  He continued by saying “The basement is flooded and I haven’t had power for a while, but at least the house is still standing.”  That response made me feel very ungrateful and spoiled because my living conditions were nowhere near that bad and I was complaining.  However, this person who had been affected more than anyone I know still had this optimism in him and he was still looking on the bright side of life.  It was very inspirational and heart-warming talking with him.

            This assignment was a very fun experience that didn’t require much out of us.  I just had to take time out of our everyday lives to talk to someone that I had no clue that I could relate to so much and would impact my way of thinking.  It kept me grounded to see that people who had suffered more than me in the hurricane were still going on with their lives and trying to recover the best that they could.  It was interesting to see that human beings are willing to talk to anyone as long as that person will listen. 


Negotiating Public Spaces

As a commuter I have become very familiar with trains and buses.  Most people just keep to themselves. Either looking out the window lost in thought, listening to music, reading a book or newspaper, studying for a class, playing games on some sort of electronic or whatever it may be. These people just mind their own business until their stop comes and they get off and continue their life.  The individuals who are usually conversing with each other are acquaintances or people who observe something about another, such as the course subject they are studying, and start a conversation based upon that. 

In any other situation it feels uncomfortable having complete strangers inches, sometimes centimeters, away from you.  However, I have noticed that individuals aren’t uncomfortable being crammed together in a bus or train.  In this situation, they just remain still and try to limit their movements as much as possible in order to avoid bumping into their neighbors.  They realize that they are forced into sacrificing their personal space due to the circumstance that there is no place for them to go; therefore, you have to make the best of it.  Even on an empty bus, the single seats are always the first ones to go and the double seats are taken up when there is no other place to sit without someone being next to you.  However, on the train the triple seat are usually reach full capacity with only two people in them, one in the seat near the window and other in the seat near the aisle with their bags in the middle.  Since there is more room to stand on a train a person would rather stand than be stuck between two strangers.  I figured that it is just natural and instinctual for human beings to want their own personal space especially is an age where we are more comfortable interacting with others electronically rather than physically. 

The weirdest experience I have ever had on the bus was on a regular day when I was going home around 9 pm after class with my friend.   When I stepped onto the bus it was completely pack and I had to stand near the entrance along with a few other people.  However, after a couple of stops, several people got off and I moved a little further down.  I realized I was standing in front of a guy with a baseball cap on who was listening to music.  The thing that was different about him and any other person with their headphones in was that he was playing an air guitar and “head banging.” It was very strange because it was the first time I actually felt uncomfortable on the bus.  When I looked around I noticed that he was making other people around him uncomfortable too.  However, the lady neighboring him on his right was laughing, but, she had hand in front of her mouth trying to cover it up.  When I looked in the reflection of the window, I saw that other people on the bus had noticed him too and were whispering amongst each other about him too.  I don’t know whether or not the guy did not notice the people or he just chose to ignore them because he just kept to himself.  I thought that he might have been a musician just practicing before a show.  This suspicion was affirmed when he reached his stop and pulled the guitar from under the seat and walked out.  At this point the bus was still fairly crowded and he just pulled his instrument out even though it lifted the leg of the passengers beside him.  This made the whole experience even stranger because this person broke every single norm of riding the bus.  He bumped into others with saying “excuse me” and in a packed bus he didn’t limit his movements and just continued to do what he was doing.  In a public space one has to be willing to make the sacrifice of their own personal space momentarily to not make other civilians uncomfortable and to maintain social order.