Graffiti vandals from across the globe are taking advantage of lifted COVID-19 travel restrictions to venture to NYC to vandalize MTA trains, according to a report – fueling a dramatic surge in subway graffiti.
Transit officials reported 209 instances of vandalism this year through the end of April – a more than 200 percent jump from 2021 and the highest number year-to-date since at least 2018, according to MTA stats.
“As restrictions on international travel have lifted, we have seen an increase in layup graffiti incidents,” NYPD spokeswoman Lt. Jessica McRorie told nonprofit news site The City, which first reported the increase.
President Biden in August lifted COVID-19 travel restrictions that had prevented many vandalism-loving tourists from venturing to the US, McCrorie said.
Foreign visitors make up a huge chunk of the graffitists who leave their “works” on NYC subway trains, experts have previously told The Post.
A relic of New York’s “bad old days,” subway graffiti experienced a dramatic resurgence in the 2010s thanks in part to social media’s reach. International artists come to New York to “get that feather in their cap that they’ve painted on a train in the birthplace of subway graffiti,” according to one expert interviewed by The City.
Their absence was felt during the darkest days of COVID-19, when vandalism incidents dropped from a high of 443 “hits” in 2018 to just 208 total in all of 2020 and 91 through the first four months of 2021, according to official figures.
MTA CEO Janno Lieber launched a “track-trespass” task force late last year to combat illegal intrusions by graffitist and others, but the problem has persisted – including last month, when cops found two mangled bodies on the tracks in Brooklyn, who news outlets later reported to be well-known French artists.
Gothamist reported that the two “taggers” – Pierre Audebert and Julien Blanc – were in town to film a documentary about 1980s graffiti culture.
Instances of spray paint on train exteriors surged between 2014 and 2018, from 25 to 84, according to MTA figures previously reviewed by The Post.
“The MTA considers acts of vandalism to be unacceptable. These acts are costly to the MTA and taxpayers, and often extremely dangerous, ”MTA spokesman Sean Butler said in a statement. “The MTA works closely with the NYPD to investigate any acts of vandalism.”