Last week New York State Assemblyman Philip Goldfeder arranged a press conference at the Hawtree Basin Bridge, about a 15-minute ride from JFK airport. Standing behind him were members of the 106th precinct and a local civic association president as Goldfeder declared war on graffiti, citing an arts and craft kit marketed to children as potentially one of society’s biggest ills.
The “toy,” Kidffiti, is a chalk-based product that is sold in mock aerosol spray cans (along with stencils) at Toys “R” Us. And the assemblyman, a Democrat who represents Far Rockaway, in Queens, wrote a letter to Toys “R” Us’ CEO asking that the country’s largest toy store retailer ban the product that “washes off with water” from its shelves.
The brand is also available at limited Walmart stores, where its product description doubles as a mini-disclaimer
Kidffiti Spray Chalk allows kids, young and old, to express themselves creatively through art. It’s fun and easy to use! With Kidffiti Spray Chalk, and a little creativity, you can create just about anything! For outdoor fun on driveways or sidewalk only.
“We should be educating our children to keep our community clean, not providing them the tools to potentially deface it,” Goldfeder said, in front of a bridge that actually had no graffiti on it. “Graffiti vandalism is a gateway crime that not only affects the quality of life, but could lead to more serious offenses.”
Among those serious offenses, Goldfeder told the Daily News, are “drug abuse and drug sales.”
ANIMAL asked Goldfeder what data he was using to infer that graffiti was a gateway crime.
“I am basing my statement on almost 35 years of living in New York City and over 10 years in public service,” he wrote in an email to ANIMAL.
“To clarify, graffitti [sic] and blighted areas attract drug use and sales,” he wrote. “While I do believe that graffitti [sic] can be considered a form of art, it must be practiced in the appropriate places and not marketed to children.”
Goldfeder is taking his instinct for what he perceives as graffiti’s negative impact and turning it into action. Not only did he write a letter to Toys “R” Us, but announced he’s also contacted the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs to work with retailers to keep the city safe and clean by, presumably, somehow reigning in the sales of spray-on chalk and stencils. According to the Queens Chronicle:
The agency responded immediately and committed to work with Goldfeder and any relevant retailers to discuss the effects of the sale of graffiti stencils and possible solutions to address stencil availability.
Perhaps Goldfeder is confused because Kidffiti also sells a stencil kit for kids, but unless he’s going to try and ban the sale of stencil cutters or stencils altogether, it’s unclear what kinds of changes he seeks and how they will impact his community and keep it safe from street and graffiti artists. Also, if graffiti isn’t via stencil, how else he or the DCA plan on preventing its spread.
A spokesperson for the DCA told ANIMAL that it doesn’t have the power to have stores pull products, unless they’re banned/illegal items, which the stencil kit doesn’t seem to be.
The spokesperson declined comment on whether and how its office is working with Goldfeder, what retail stores would possibly be affected, whether its had any conversations with any retail stores and what other types of materials — if any — it would discourage from being sold. So, either the office is doing absolutely nothing and this is all phantom, or it is and to what degree and whether it will have any real-life impact is unclear.
As for Kidffiti, a spokesperson for Toys “R” Us referred all questions to Jakks Pacific, the company which makes Kidffiti. When told that Jakks couldn’t speak to whether Toys “R” Us will continue to carry Kidffiti, whether its CEO received the letter, and whether the chain thinks Kidfitti encourages children to one day grow up and become graffiti artists and (potentially) drug-dealing criminals, the spokesperson did not respond.
Jakks Pacific has yet to comment publicly and did not respond to ANIMAL’s multiple attempts for comment.
On Tuesday ANIMAL called four local Toys “R” Us stores in New York City. The lone one that stocked Kidfitti was in Glendale, the closest store to Goldfeder’s district.