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William Poundstone on Art and Chaos

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Meet a Man Who’s Really Steamed about Street Art

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Peter Vallone, Jr., New York Daily News photo

Astoria, NY, City Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr., is in the news. His letter to the Brooklyn Museum, threatening to cut off the city’s $9 million funding, is believed to have been a factor in the museum’s decision to drop the MOCA-organized “Art in the Streets.” Vallone’s role isn’t coincidental. He has made a career as a graffiti hawk. Brooklyn director Arnold Lehman must have known that Vallone—also known as God’s gift to NY bloggers—isn’t a man to back down, once he gets hold of an issue.

• Vallone on the 2006 sentencing of Queens tagger Kiko: ”This punk can scribble all the graffiti he wants — on the inside of his jail cell.”

• Vallone wrote New York’s law criminalizing the possession of Magic Markers by anyone under the age of 21.

• One thing Vallone hates as much as graffiti: pit bulls. He likewise connects the breed to gangs and said the city should ban pit bulls “before another child’s face is ripped off.” Vallone himself owns a Bichon Frise, “Gus Gus”—named after one of the mice in Cinderella.

• Vallone wrote a complicated dog leash law, “possibly the worst written law in the history of the City of New York,” that arguably makes it a crime to tie up a dog at a picnic.

• Vallone is also a water fluoridation hawk. In December he was planning to introduce a bill to remove fluoride from New York City’s water: “This is forced medication by the government. What’s next? They decide we’re depressed and add Prozac to our drinking water?”

I don’t mean to trivialize Vallone’s issues. Graffiti is a big problem, and pit bull attacks are a big problem. (Fluoridation, not so much.) We want our leaders to be able to look at the big picture — in this case, a ground-breaking art exhibit of particular resonance to New York — and to distinguish the important from the trivial, the rational concerns from the paranoid. Otherwise… (via Gothamist and Stanley Kubrick)

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  1. banning pit bulls? this angers me more than anything. blame the owners, not the dogs. they’re one of the sweetest, smartest dog breeds there is. how bout banning the puppy mill where “gus gus” surely came from?

  2. by Phyllis Tuchman

    When I sat on grand jury case involving a graffiti artist from Chicago who would fly into NYC to tag, we heard about the cost and time involved tracking this guy down. Big bucks!!!

  3. This guy’s got too much power: Too much money and thus too much power.
    Interesting how he naturally recognises his arch nemesis in graffiti and pit bulls: two aspects of a culture characterised by self-expression of the alienated, the disaffected, the powerless and the disadvantaged. Occasionally graff is made artfully- with a degree of creative skill and aesthetic consciousness – othertimes it is more spontaneous, artless and un-considered, even nihilistic. Naturally none is pretty in his eyes.

    I doubt he’ll ever recognise a connection between his obscene abundance of wealth and that of his small but greedy class, and the consequent power to protect it, and as we have seen already, to control the lives of others, and the corresponding disadvantaged and disaffected who far outnumber him.
    But I hope he feels it and is kept awake by the ugliness he is complicit in engendering.

  4. People will remember Keith Haring, Jean Paul Basquiat, Shepard Fairey, etc….long after this minor politician is gone. In fact they already do.

  5. you think pitbulls and graffiti are more important than our water being treated with flouride?
    is this real life?

  6. Flouride in the water is maybe the most
    Important thing happening right now, I hate this guy until I read he wants to remove Flouride from the drinking water! Get rid of it please! It’s poison, do research!
    Long live graffiti :)

  7. by James Keenan

    Geez people! This guy dosen’t even know his own issues, did he do his research on alarmist blogs?

    There are all kinds and types of fluoride, witch one are you worried about? Sodium Fluoride is in the water naturally, it’s salt. The FDA monitors the Fluoride levels, they don’t add it to the water. Some water districts add Sodium Fluoride to the water in low enogh levels not to effect you but to keep it clean. If you have a problem with that talk to your local water district.

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