State Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder is very worried; there’s a toy on local shelves that’s turning children into criminals.
It’s called Kidffiti, and it’s a chalk-based imitation spray paint kit. It sprays powdered chalk in an unwholesome array of colors. And it might be sending the city’s children down a very dark path. Won’t somebody think of the children, you ask? Assemblyman Goldfeder is doing just that.
Worried that Kidffiti will condemn a generation to a life of crime by promoting an illegal art form, the Queens Democrat is calling for local stores to take the product off their shelves, hopefully with the help of the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs.
Goldfeder held a press conference on Monday to announce his plan of action, and the Voice subsequently reached out to him, mostly because of this quote he gave to the Daily News:
“Graffiti is just the first act of vandalism,” Goldfeder said. “It oftentimes leads to drug abuse and drug sales.”
That seemed just a wee bit overstated. And because he’s a good sport (and a pretty nice guy who probably doesn’t deserve all this snark) Goldfeder chose to return our call. He said he’d been asked about the line “a few times” over the past day and a half, so he took the opportunity to, ahem, revise his statement.
No, Goldfeder clarified, he’s not suggesting that chalk painting will lead inexorably to a generation of budding Banksys with a package of crack under their sneaker strap.
But yes, he is standing by the sentiment.
“The idea was that graffiti is a gateway crime,” Goldfeder said. “Someone who vandalizes a public place may be emboldened to commit more serious crimes.”
Goldfeder explained that he was referring to the “broken windows” theory of policing, much in vogue lately. Areas where relatively minor infractions like graffiti are tolerated, the theory goes, may later see an increase in more serious crimes, like drug dealing. It’s not usually understood as an individual progression thing — not even former mayor Rudy Giuliani suggested that squeegee toting panhandlers were going to develop into Scarface. But consider Goldfeder’s statement clarified, and moderated. At least somewhat.
Goldfeder also had some nice things to say about street art, which he conceded could be a valuable and legitimate art form, and he certainly supports artistic endeavors for kids. He just doesn’t think glorifying vandalism is the best thing to do.
To be fair, between the “urban” packaging and the name, the company that produces Kidfitti, Jakks Pacific, does seem to be trying to capitalize off of the increasing cache of illegal graffiti. But whether that promotes actual illegal graffiti or just, ya know, pretend time, is up for debate. The same company that makes Kidffiti also makes a line of Godzilla toys, and we’re not likely to see a rash of kids trying to crush Japanese metropolises with their gigantic lizard feet. But one can never be too careful.
A representative of the Department of Consumer Affairs, for their part, says they have no power to remove a legal product from store shelves. Like, none. But Goldfeder said the agency had agreed to “facilitate” talks between his office and retailers and hopefully achieve voluntary removal.
And one thing is for sure: pint-size vandals won’t even have to graduate to real paint to break the law in New York City. Just ask this six-year-old Brooklyn girl whose neighbor called 311 (really?) over her sidewalk drawings.
And thus, the cycle begins. Despite his best efforts, Goldfeder may be too late.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 27, 2014