Free to Paint

Graffitit law tagged out?


A lawsuit spurred by the fashion and video game designer Mark Ecko has at least temporarily won back for young New Yorkers (ages 18 to 21) the right to purchase spray paint and broad-tipped markers.

Some stern adults in the city are certain that the only reason any youngster would want to possess such art supplies is to add to New York's graffiti. The law, spearheaded by City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr., went into effect in January and was suspended in early May by a judge pending the outcome of Ecko's lawsuit. The ban still applies to New Yorkers under 18.

For Vallone and other fans of the law, such as Mayor Michael Bloomberg, it's part of their war on the classic image of New York as a gritty, filthy playground for the lawless. The young plaintiffs in the Ecko-funded lawsuit argue that such restrictions on artistic tools, which do not distinguish between legal and illegal uses, are pre-emptive assaults on the right to free speech.