• May 2, 2006
  • Posted by Marc

Judge Overturns New York City’s Ban on ‘Graffiti Instruments’

Based on comments we read from time to time on the Wooster site, it’s clear that Marc Ecko is a fairly polarizing figure in the graffiti scene. 

But for us, he’s got our support.

It was Ecko, and Ecko alone, who backed seven high school and college kids and sued the city of New York over the recent ban on possessing spray paint and fat tipped markers if you are under 21 years old. 

The results?

Yesterday a federal judge ruled in favor of Ecko’s seven kids and overturned the city ruling, forcing the city to stop enforcing the ban.

Congratulations and respect to Marc Ecko and the seven kids who took on the city.  Nice one indeed.

Here’s the article from today’s New York Times:

Judge Rules Against New York City Ban on ‘Graffiti Instruments’

In a setback to the city’s efforts to curtail graffiti, a federal judge ordered the city yesterday to stop enforcing its ban on the possession of spray paint and broad-tipped markers, saying the law unfairly singled out a narrow age group.

Judge George B. Daniels of Federal District Court in Manhattan, who issued his ruling over the objections of a city attorney, issued a preliminary injunction, to take effect at 5 p.m. on Thursday, against a law banning the possession of what the city calls “graffiti instruments” by people 18, 19 and 20. The judge left in place a ban on possession of etching acid, a substance used to indelibly deface subway windows and other surfaces, by people under 21.

Gabriel Taussig, the chief of the administrative law division of the city’s Law Department, said the city would appeal the decision before the Thursday deadline imposed by Judge Daniels.

The ban on tools used to create graffiti “imposes reasonable conditions on a limited class of individuals,” Mr. Taussig said in an interview late yesterday. He said that 70 percent of the city’s graffiti had been found to be the work of people under age 21.

In finding that the city had improperly singled out a narrow age group in its ban, Judge Daniels ruled in favor of a group of seven high school and college students who sued the city last week with financial backing from Marc Ecko, a Manhattan fashion designer who has championed graffiti as an established art form.

Mr. Ecko said yesterday that the group did not intend to defend anyone’s right to vandalize property. But he said that many property owners in the city had allowed, and in some cases paid for, graffiti on their buildings.

“It is a visual dialect practiced around the world,” Mr. Ecko said.

The plaintiffs had not asked Judge Daniels to lift the city’s ban on etching acid, a particularly destructive material that in recent months has been used to mar thousands of subway car windows.

The city ban, which was written by Councilman Peter F. Vallone Jr. and took effect on Jan. 1, strengthened a prohibition that had already been in place on the sale of graffiti tools to those 18 and under.

The new rules broaden the ban to include possession and sale of the tools, and extend it to people up to 21.

Virginia Waters, a city attorney who appeared before Judge Daniels yesterday, said that the judge had not sufficiently weighed written arguments submitted by the city only hours before his ruling yesterday afternoon.

The preliminary injunction prevents the city from enforcing its ban on spray paint and broad-tipped markers while Judge Daniels hears more arguments and issues a ruling on the broader lawsuit, which seeks to permanently strike down the ban.