Jason Shelowitz, or Jay Shells, a New York artist who in 2010 launched a subway etiquette campaign covering all sorts of ills committed by commuters (something we clearly have an interest in as well), and later followed with a “clean up after your dog” series, is at it again. He put up street signs last night in five or so Manhattan neighborhoods, including ours, at Cooper Square, as well as Times Square and Hell’s Kitchen, in hopes of drawing attention to urban etiquette issues like saggy pants, cigarette-butt-flicking, and NYPD horse poop.
These, however, are longer-lasting than paper posters or even the silk-screened subway etiquette signs. They’re actual metal signs, manufactured by a sign vendor after being conceived of and designed by Shelowitz (check out his website, JayShells.com). How will they go over with the authorities? He told us, “I put a couple in Times Square last night, in front of a ton of cops. They just looked at me like I was supposed to be doing it.”
“I wanted to do it in a way that was a little more permanent,” he explained. “I designed and wrote the signs, and I have a real street sign vendor producing them. I have about 30 up — I just ordered more.”
Each sign costs Shelowitz $25 to have made; he’s hoping to keep about half of his most recent order to sell to people on Etsy, which he did with a portion of the subway etiquette posters — which then paid for these new signs — in the interest of breaking even. Along with the “Pull up your pants” and “Clean up after your horse” signs, there’s “Pay attention while walking (your Facebook status update can wait),” and “Don’t flick your butts on the ground.”
“These were the four messages that I’d come up with at this point,” he said. “The ‘pull up your pants’ one isn’t even etiquette so much as acknowledging the ridiculousness that it’s come to, over the last few years. It’s exaggerated to the point that it doesn’t even make sense, it’s just insane. You don’t look tough with your ass hanging out! They’re all supposed to be tongue in cheek. I’m kind of like a Larry David with these projects, saying things other people are thinking that they aren’t saying.”
The signs have been placed randomly, with some attention to putting the cigarette one in front of restaurants and hotels, where the problem seems to exist the most. Shelowitz plans to spread his new artwork out through the boroughs (except Staten Island) in the next few days. He told us, “They’re all meant to improve life. Everybody seems to get a kick out it.”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 8, 2011