Anti-graffiti NYC politician wants to ban fat cap spraycan adapters

Queens, NY Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. has proposed a ban on fat caps, a spraycan adapter used by graffiti artists and others who need to cover a large surface quickly. Vallone's an anti-graffiti campaigner, and many graffiti writers have pointed out that there are plenty of legit uses for fat caps, including legal graffiti.

He previously helped pass laws that restrict the sale of spray-paint cans and broad-tipped markers. He has also sponsored a bill restricting the sale of etching acid.

"Vandals are now destroying homes and businesses and monuments like never before," Vallone said. "The more tools they come up with to destroy property, the more tools we have to give to law enforcement to protect properties."

Queens pol Peter Vallone Jr. seeks to crack down on 'fat caps,' a common graffiti tool

(Thanks, billav!)



  1. Graffiti is beautiful. A scream of rage against the stark, ugly “Spaces” the globalist bankers and corporate swine inflict. Graffiti left alone over time evolves and helps an area define itself. But the Globalist Banker Swine’s greatest enemy is “Local Culture”. They want no culture other than the ugly fictions they sell to you while forcing it on you.

  2. I’ve been having some interesting conversations recently with my kids (6 and 7 yo) regarding ‘good’ graffiti and ‘bad’ graffiti. We’re slowly working towards a working definition of the difference.

    There was – until last week – a tunnel here in Wellington that was layered in unknowable layers of graffiti which went back many many years. It was vibrant, interesting, spontaneous, ever-evolving, and quite attractive. Unfortunately, later this year we’re hosting part of the RWC, so of course it had to go. Now the tunnel has been painted white, it’s been fenced off at both ends, and my city looks just that little bit more like a prison. My kids definitely viewed the tunnel as ‘good’ graffiti, which has made artists the Good Guys(tm) and the City Council – or whoever it was – the Bad Guys(tm) for painting it out. I’m happy with that outcome, though not nearly as happy as I was with the graffiti tunnel in my life.


    1. So, should “bad” graffiti be criminalized, and “good” graffiti be protected? I see some obvious problems with trying to apply that distinction.

      1. “I see some obvious problems with trying to apply that distinction.”

        So does someone who puts up a fence so NOBODY can have it.

  3. In the words of Banksy, “Some people become cops because they want to make the world a better place. Some people become vandals because they want to make the world a better looking place.”

    1. In the words of Sean Williams (me), “I prefer people (cops) who want to make the world a better place. I don’t need Banksy or any other grafitti guy dictating to me what THEY DETERMINE will make the world a better looking place.”

  4. Graffiti is (almost always) a blight on cities and neighbourhoods. It’s a good thing that the majority of citizens are trying to reduce graffiti, using whatever methods are available. I doubt this particular ban will have any effect, but the overall aim is a good one.

  5. Graffiti artists: Rebels who express their individuality by painting the same stuff as a million before them.

    Yup, that’s real hard core rebellion. But now with a wider spray.

    If they really wanted to rebel, they could start fighting the things that are actually wrong around us rather than self-indulgently imagining an unpainted surface needs their mark.

    1. Graffiti artists: Rebels who express their individuality by painting the same stuff as a million before them.

      Ignorant, much? The fact that you even use the phrase “same stuff” shows that you have NFI, bud. It’s an art form which has regional differences and historical trends and to suggest it’s all the same merely illustrates how little understanding you have of art. The “it’s illegal, so it’s not art” argument is a non-starter. Throughout history artists have been breaking the law and pushing boundaries.

      “Your wall – and by extension the urban experience – is boring and ugly…. let me fix that for you”. Explain to me how such a concept is different for an artist like Christo whose art works on a similar principle, and whose works have been known to cause environmental damage (allegedy him wrapping nature resulted in the deaths of birds and other native fauna).

      As much as I like people to express themselves, I really hate graffiti. Let’s see how THEY feel if I spray paint their cars and houses.

      I would assert that the large majority of writers do not own a car or house.

  6. As much as I like people to express themselves, I really hate graffiti. Let’s see how THEY feel if I spray paint their cars and houses.

  7. This quote is funny to me: “Vandals are now destroying homes and businesses and monuments like never before,” Vallone said. “The more tools they come up with to destroy property, the more tools we have to give to law enforcement to protect properties.”

    I think they moved on to etching because you made it illegal to sell easier-to-remove spray paint to people under 21. I get carded when I buy dulling spray in town. However, a quick train ride to New Jersey gets you all the cans you want without carding. And much, much better graffiti and I don’t see anything being permanently etched on the west side of the river like they are in New York.

    Stop making people come up with new and clever ways to tag and they’ll stop using more permanent means. Banning fat caps will just mean they’ll buy them in another state and still use them.

  8. Presumably he’ll be banning spray adhesive, and pam cooking oil spray – cause those come with fat caps on them. And of course he’ll ban having an exacto knife and a couple of minutes of spare time, because that’s about how long it takes to make your own fat cap…

  9. Assumptions: graffitti is wrong, should be stopped, is ugly, valueless, and destructive.

    Riposte: Lascaux.

    That said, there are distinct value differences between Banksy (or Lascaux) and drug-distribution territory markings that are the equivalent of hiking a leg on a tree.

    1. If Lascaux were open to the public all the timer and mostly unsupervised, those boring animals would be covered under a nice layer of colorful tags and ‘el barto was here’.

  10. I’m confused. Where I am, most graffiti is on public property (bridges, tunnels, parks, etc) followed by backsides of businesses (stores and restaurants etc)

    It’s almost nonexistent on factories or homes or churches.

    Is it different elsewhere?

    1. Yes, it’s different elsewhere.

      Not to lessen the gravity the destruction or defacement of public properties, I think you missed railcars and trucks. I’ve seen plenty on homes as well.

      Seriously, it’s wrong to spray paint stuff you don’t own. It hurts everyone, including unnecessary restriction on tools that have other uses.

      1. It’s important to draw the line between vandals hurting others by virtue of committing vandalism, and vandals hurting others by supposedly necessitating ham-fisted laws.

        If I use a hammer and chisel to deface public property and the local government tries to ban hammers, you don’t blame me for that terrible law, you blame your local government for being too lazy to care about the collateral damage caused by their policies.

        Blame bad vandals for bad graffiti, and blame bad lawmakers for bad laws. There’s no reason both things have to be the fault of just one involved party.

  11. Obviously the proposed law is stupid.

    However, so is defending defacing someone else’s property, as if that shouldn’t have legal consequences, and as if people don’t have a right to not have your “art” all over their own homes and businesses if they don’t want it there. Defending that as “free expression” is obviously and ridiculously hypocritical, but it’s amazing how many people don’t (or choose not to) see that.

    Sometimes it’s cool looking, though.

  12. Because artists can’t order them online, or in the next county.

    Because they can’t just use paintbrushes, or throw cans of paint at a wall.

    When will people learn that banning something does NOTHING, if not makes something stronger.

    Attack the problem from the real direction. Make more art schools. Provide public canvases, get some jobs so teens don’t have to make the choice between crack or grafitti. Give them a third option.

    Banning a piece of plastic is about the stupidest thing you could try and do.

    1. Graffiti *artists* tend to drop out before the end of the first semester of art school, at least the one I went to. Once they realized they had to do more than spray-bomb things late at night and fill sketchbooks practicing their tags in markers. Anyone is welcome to express themselves but a skilled artist has to grow and evolve and be open to new ideas/techniques. Encouraging them will just fill up space with potential artists who’d rather learn and grow beyond that. And art schools are already glutted right now with kids thinking they’ll make a killing as a graphic designer because they made all their friends myspace pages. Sure urban muraling programs might help the problem, and many cities do have spaces set aside for graffiti. In Cambridge MA there is a alley/gallery for graffiti.

  13. So called ‘Fat caps’ are on a lot of products such as hair spray and art stick cans and are easily interchangable with the ones on spray paint cans.

    Simple method of making a Fat marker. Remove lid of texter. Cut off or unscrew top plastic ‘nib’. Use needle nose plyers to pull out part way the inside ink soaked wadding material. Be careful to not get ink on clothes or hands. Fold end over and tuck back into hole effectively doubling wadding over. Push and arrange so that only 1/2 cm is poking out as a fat texta head. The original lid should fit on. Experiment with paint and thinners in these same textas for amazing color results.

    I ask if the ancient words carved into the church pews and on the pyramids by travellers (many famous) in days gone by, are to be considered graffiti and removed?

  14. Another stupid band-aid crackdown from another stupid authoritarian.

    I’m so sick of this intentionally intellectually impoverished approach to reality… it’s the same response they trot out regarding drugs. Protect us fuckwits from reality by simply denying it.

    Which, anyone with their head screwed on can tell, pretty equates with harm maximisation. All that counter-productive insanity is basically equivalent to jamming your eyes shut, sticking your fingers in your ears, and going LALALALA. While driving.

    When are folks with sense going to sweep aside all these worse-than-useless idiots? For crying out loud, these authoritarian morons are so obviously the real vandals.

  15. “So, should “bad” graffiti be criminalized, and “good” graffiti be protected? I see some obvious problems with trying to apply that distinction.”

    It’s a difficult problem, and I have no pat answers. I’m struggling with it myself, and between the three of us – my girls and I – we’re stumbling towards some kind of consensus. And it’s not really ‘good’ = protect / ‘bad’ = prosecute. It’s more along the lines of ‘good’ = let’s enjoy this art / ‘bad’ = this shouldn’t happen. But it probably will. Regardless of what we or anyone else thinks. So let’s celebrate the good stuff.

    I’m lucky(?) enough to live in a suburb with an active community organisation. One of their brainstorms over the last couple of years has been to Eradicate Teh Graffiti! So instead of graffiti, we’re now blessed with irregular rectangles of thick grey paint. Mmm. I just love feeling like I live on a battleship. Oh, except for the historic wall built about a century ago by prisoners with bricks they made themselves (I know – it sounds odd. But it’s actually quite attractive, as old brick things often are). The wall is alongside a university and next to a college (read: high school). It gets tagged. Not a lot, but often enough. So the geniusses on the community organisation scrubbed off the graffiti … and the brick’s protective patina right along with it. Now the wall is eroding in the weather quite quickly.

    Then there was this fiasco:
    That was (and is again! Yay!) just down the road from where I live. It rasises an interesting point: is the difference between graffiti and art simply a matter of time? In some cases it deinately seems so.

    Best Regards

  16. Somebody here in Kansas City is using a paint-filled Super Soaker squirt gun. Perhaps Peter would prefer that.

  17. The problem isn’t the graffiti artists doing cool work, it’s the taggers spraying all over neighborhoods. Or even scribbling their valueless paint over street art. If graffiti artists want to improve the rep of graffiti, they should direct their attention towards the taggers. Perhaps teach these guys to do more than pee their name all over the place.

  18. Peter Vallone Jr. is my district’s useless councilman. He ran last term on a platform of eradicating graffiti in his district-and that’s it. I couldn’t discern anything useful he’s done in his term of service, and the graffiti in Astoria certainly hasn’t decreased since the election.
    And, it’s not pretty. Trust me almost none of the graffiti in Astoria he wants to get rid of is beautifying anything. That being said, he’s an example of nepotism in politics overriding true public servants being elected; this proposal is simply posturing since he doesn’t care about doing anything to truly help New Yorkers.

  19. Before wide tip markers were easily available they were made with deodorant sticks and chalkboard erasers. Before glass etching, there was lava rocks. Before fatcaps, there was rollers.

    I see “bad graffiti” mostly done by gang bangers… BUT gang bangers don’t use fat caps.

  20. Not only am I (up until last month) a New Yorker, but Vallone, Jr. was my local councilman. He’s an attention-seeking douche who goes after whatever low-hanging fruit will get him media attention.

    This law is stupid in that it won’t actually affect vandalism. It will however, get Vallone, Jr. press from all sorts of places. Apparently, this includes Boing Boing.

    Don’t feed the trolls!

    Having said that, graffiti is somewhere between annoying and alarming. Its often a pain in the ass to clean up (ever have your car or property tagged without your permission? If the answer is no, then you aren’t qualified to defend graffiti.) Sometimes, it’s actually a marker for gang territorial boundaries. Gangs suck. They are harmful for people of all socio-economic backgrounds. Stopping gang activity isn’t simply targeting minorities or the poor.

  21. NEWSFLASH FOR THE MIDDLE CLASS: the “Good” graffiti is done by the same people as the “Bad” graffiti.

    (And, just personally, I usually find the ‘Bad’ sort more beautiful.)

  22. I think graffiti is absurd. What’s even more absurd is the whining generated over it.

    “Oh noes! Some thuggoligan applied paint to the surface in my possession, which I’ll have to apply more paint to (which probably needed more paint to protect it from the elements eventually)”

  23. Why not sell the caps at a bargain price as an investigative tool? Mail order business isn’t anonymous. Every transaction has a name and address connected to it!

    I’d love to see some of the people vandalizing businesses in my community with spray paint get caught.

  24. hum.. i never even heard of someone having their car tagged. geuss graffity dudes here have some code of conduct.

  25. Peter Vallone Jr is a political shill whose only qualification for office is that his father had the office before him. I live up the street from his official offices in Astoria.

    When his Dad was running for office for the last time, I remember his team doing borderline illegal campaigning on Election Day, literally handing out flyers 5″ from the legally allowed distance from the polling stations (and almost blocking the sidewalk).

    If Baby Vallone wanted to do anything for “quality of life” he’d start by giving the DHCR better enforcement powers to get access to unsafe/run down buildings, stop illegal conversions (which turns 2-family homes into firetraps housing up to 40+ people at a time, usually illegal day workers), and make slimy landlords (like mine) do necessary repairs instead of giving them figleaf fines and showing generic receipts from Home Depot as “proof of repair” with no followup visits.

    He’s also really out of his league given that the famous 5ptz building is in Long Island City, and is a living, constantly-changing museum of graf art. Almost everyone I’ve ever spoken to wants to force the building’s owners to bring it back up to code so that it can be used as artists’ studios again (it was condemned when an external stairwell collapsed, almost killing one of the artists). It used to be a vibrant studio center with sculptors, painters, jewelers, T-shirt printers, etc, with graf on the outside. However, there’s talk about turning the site into condos.

    So, the building is allegedly so structurally unsound that it needs to be torn down…but WAIT, NO, it can be RENOVATED into zillion dollar lofts for people being priced out of Philip Stark’s latest monstrosity in Manhattan….

    And yeah to the folks who pointed out that there’s no way that they can ever eliminate fat caps.

  26. What’s next … a straw with every bucket of paint?

    We need a strong definition of “Enough Laws”.

  27. There are several things that make this particular campaign pointless; first and foremost, fatcaps don’t so much make it possible to do graffiti that one couldn’t otherwise. The difference between using one as opposed to the stock caps that come on the cans is that you can achieve cleaner lines, less “splotchy” coverage, and can cover an area cleanly in less time. In other words, I would wager that if this were passed, it would have ZERO effect on the amount of graffiti one saw in New York, and would instead result solely in affecting the quality of the work popping up.

    Also noteworthy is the fact that I could easily name a dozen products off the top of my head that come with various types of caps that I can use to change the output of a paint can, and they’re all available in hardware stores, supermarkets, bodegas, and my kitchen.

  28. Any aerosol actuator can be a “fatcap” with a minimum of effort; just make the knick in the side of the stem wider. That knick, by being wider, lets more paint in quickly which then can exit quickly.

    These gold fatcaps are amongst the “fattest” you can get and you’ll notice the knick is alomst half the stem gone:

    whilst these “skinny caps” are used for fine lines and detailed work, look how small the knick is:

    Generally graffiti writers are a resourceful bunch so it would be utterly pointless banning fatcaps as they can easily convert regular actuators in a few seconds.

  29. i’d rather see an ugly painting from a graf artists than see a good looking ad for a french handbag…… any day…

  30. As much as I like people to express themselves, I really hate graffiti. Let’s see how THEY feel if I spray paint their cars and houses.

    I would assert that the large majority of writers do not own a car or house.”

    Yeah maybe that why they seem to have little respect for peoples hard earned property. They are kids. Mid 20’s guys doing something they should have dropped at around 15. But the illogical “philosophy” and laughable comparisons to the art world keep them going a little longer. Im all for the “outsider” art idea(l)s but graffiti is 99% assholism (the 1% are the guys painting on their own walls.)

    And get real dude, graffiti has pretty much looked the same for decades now. Big goofy stretched out bent letters. Theres not even political content in it. At best you can say it has a design. If not, then explain to me what is each piece saying? At best, its graphic design/font work. None of which requires fucking up peoples businesses, trains etc. Graffiti/tagging culture is a black hole sucking dollars away from the property values of home owners. Just a few of these guys, if they really have nothing better to do, can make a whole neighborhood look like shit.

    If I was lying, the first commenter here wouldn’t have had to try so hard to come up with a ridiculously paranoid reality-bending conspiracy about bankers defining the world via-blankly painted walls. I cant imagine the Rothschild looking over a proposal to make sure the walls are one color and holding together the reality-consensus. Now, if he REALLY believes that, maybe hes sniffed to much of his propellant….

    1. I vastly prefer layers of graffiti to the dreary monochrome boxes with which we smother the landscape. Graffiti is life; corporate architecture is living death.

  31. I’m so conflicted over graffiti. While I love a good mural, I’ve driven retired metermaid cars in San Francisco for about 10 years, and I’ve been graffiti bombed probably 50 times. Nothing like coming out in the morning and having to bust out the chemical paint removers before you’ve even had your coffee. And I’m quite obviously not a municipal metermaid, but the little shits don’t care.

    And for awhile I owned a big white step van. I paid for secured parking and it’d STILL get tagged up every week. And I couldn’t leave it that way since I was using it to service fancy hotels.

    I like the axiom that the subtext to almost every bit of graffiti is FUCK YOU. Of course that’s in the eye of the beholder, and there are exceptions. Maybe we just need a less broad definition of the word “graffiti”? If it somehow didn’t include the concept of tagging I’d be a much less conflicted person. But of course lots of people who do murals that I like are also taggers, so who knows.

    And it doesn’t help that people under 18 (the age of most taggers) are pretty much incapable of producing decent art, whether its writing, music or spray painting. I don’t mean that harshly, its just that, with extremely few exceptions, they’re not mature enough and haven’t developed their art enough yet. And they usually don’t have a sense of morality or empathy yet, which means they don’t think about the person who has to remove their chicken scratch.

    And don’t get me started on the new thing I’m seeing around where they “etch” big windows with acid…

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