Recently he painted a picture of a Beaver on a wall in East New York, a Brooklyn neighborhood bordering Queens that is known for being dangerous. Art gawkers dutifully went there to view the piece, and local East New York residents promptly went about robbing these art tourists, blocking the view of the graffiti art meant to be public and charging people $20 to view it.
It’s to be expected that street criminals will look to make a quick buck off of less-than-streetwise tourists, what makes this latest hustle more bothersome is that it’s won approval from the very class of victims most likely to be taken by the scam. The Gothamist blog called the street thugs “savvy” and many commentators thought that since white people dared to go there to view some art, then they were serving some worthy cause to be ripped off by the locals. I disagree.
Robbery is robbery, and feeling you have a right to rip people off because they’re not from your neighborhood or they don’t look like you is no reason at all. What’s more reprehensible is the multitude of self-hating “enlightened” white people thinking this is a good thing or that local East New York residents have a right to a life of petty crime because of their race or their station in life.
Let the local residents capitalize on the Banksy art legitimately. Set up a food cart there or make picture postcards of the art. There are real ways to make money that don’t involve thuggery and intimidation.
And as for the sorry state of East New York, it wasn’t street artists from England or art enthusiasts from Manhattan who made East New York the way it is today. There are people there who can do better; let them. But treat street hustlers like the low vultures they are.