In the ’70s, graffiti culture shifted from Philadelphia to New York. Legends like Fab 5 Freddy ‘tagged’ subway trains with graffiti, and by 1973 nearly every single train was covered. Several street artists were elevated to superstar status, thanks to the graffiti-covered trains that carried their tags throughout the city.
By the mid-’80s, subway trains were already being cleaned or replaced as part of the Clean Train Movement, which saw the last graffiti-tagged train taken out of service in 1989. Surprisingly, prior to 1990 the streets of New York were mostly untouched. But after the NYC Transit Authority won the ‘war on graffiti’ artists took to the city’s rooftops and streets.
On Crosby Street in SoHo, contemporary graffiti artists are still at work. Pictured above, along with former Amsterdam spotter Tomek, are tags by Adam Cole. His ‘COST’ tags have had New Yorkers buzzing for almost 30 years, starting in the early ’90s when the New York Times ran a piece about his mysterious messages that appeared all over the city.
With too much of SoHo now gentrified beyond recognition for anybody who knew it just a decade or two ago, Crosby Street is, on the surface, a great place to see a bit of the edgy vibe that downtown Manhattan was once known for.