The Department of Transportation in New York City has announced its intention to invite artists to create murals on the walls of a 900-ft pedestrian tunnel that connects the No.1 train platform to Broadway at the W. 191st St. station in Washington Heights.
The aim is to beautify the tunnel, which has repeatedly been defaced with graffiti despite the city’s efforts to prevent it.
“The 191st St. tunnel is a community landmark, providing critical connection between Broadway and the 1 train for tens of thousands of New Yorkers,” Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez said in a statement. Rodriguez used to represent the area on the City Council.
The pedestrian tunnel in question has become a battleground between New York City’s hired painters and graffiti taggers, with the latter repeatedly using it as a canvas for their work.
While the subway system is state-run, this particular tunnel is owned by the city’s Department of Transportation.
In 2015, the city hired artists to create murals and cover up the graffiti, but those murals were eventually defaced again.
According to locals who spoke to the Daily News, the graffiti problem persisted until the city recently responded by painting over it with white paint.
“They had made an art piece here and then they started graffiting over it and then one day it was all blank,” said Lauren Rodriguez, a 23-year-old teaching assistant who live in the neighborhood.
But on Thursday the freshly-painted walls were already covered with graffiti scrawls. “I’ve never seen anyone graffiti here — but it always ends up here,” Rodriguez said.
The 191st St. passage is also a popular site for drug use in the neighborhood, locals said.
On a recent day, Rodriguez said, she saw ”needles everywhere on the floor. I saw a whole bunch of them.”
“They shoot fentanyl here,” said a man who gave his name as Carlos. “They always do it.”
“Nothing wrong with the tunnel. There’s no robberies, there’s no crime, it’s just people shooting up,” he said. “They’re homeless. They have no where else to do it.”
“It’s sad. It’s been like this forever.”