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Street art was born in NYC during the 1970s, a time when the city was bankrupt and wracked by crime. Almost as a response to the chaos, young kids from the Bronx and Brooklyn began bombing subway cars and buildings with graffiti tags. It was an illegal and sometimes dangerous activity, but it created an art form that would spread around the world, and find its way into NYC galleries and museums in NYC.
Since the days when President Ford told New York to drop dead while the Bronx and Alphabet City were burning, Manhattan has become a haven for billionaire financiers and foreign oligarchs whose real estate investments have jacked up rents to the point of making the five boroughs unlivable for anyone who isn’t rich, or willing to spend their entire income on an apartment. Still, street art thrives, ironically as a sanctioned activity sponsored by business owners, community groups and even developers. But don’t worry: It’s still imbued with the same panache and attitude that made it so compelling back in the day—as you’ll see by checking out our list of the top spots to see graffiti in NYC.