A sunglass boutique in Soho, Manhattan on May 7, 2020. John Taggart for NBC

Coronavirus

Boarded-up storefronts provide new canvas for graffiti in New York City

The blank plywood panels that went up over closed stores in New York have not remained blank for long.

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Graffiti on 7th Avenue, Manhattan on May 7, 2020. John Taggart for NBC

According to the New York Police Department, complaints about graffiti are down compared to last year, but it's clear that the panels covering closed stores have provided new opportunities for graffiti artists of all stripes. Some of the panels are decorated with uplifting messages, like this one on 7th Avenue in Manhattan, but others are the odd scribbles and symbols unique to each tagger.

Roaming the streets of New York, photographer John Taggart said the proliferation of graffiti reminded him of the New York of the 1980s. 

John Taggart / for NBC News
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A sunglass boutique in Soho, Manhattan on May 7, 2020. John Taggart for NBC

Graffiti tags cover the wall of a sunglass boutique in Manhattan's SoHo neighborhood on May 7. 

John Taggart / for NBC News
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A condo building at 8th Avenue and 41st Street in Sunset Park, Brooklyn on May 6, 2020. John Taggart for NBC

An empty store in Brooklyn's Sunset Park neighborhood.

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A mailman on Mercer Street in Soho, Manhattan on May 7, 2020. John Taggart for NBC

A closed store in SoHo. 

"Soho, normally home to shopping and tourists, is now one of the most vacant and quiet parts of the city, with almost no people. It is almost the perfect place for artists to practice their craft, kind of a return to its artist roots," says Taggart. 

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A boarded up store on Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn, New York on May 7, 2020. John Taggart for NBC

Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn. 

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A scene on Canal Street in Soho, Manhattan on May 7, 2020. John Taggart for NBC

Canal Street in SoHo. 

There was plenty of graffiti in New York City before the pandemic, but Taggart notes that a lot of it wouldn't usually be visible during the day. "I saw a vast canvas of art that normally would not be present. The metal gates that protect businesses after they close at night are often the blank canvas of some amazing graffiti artists, and now that they are all down all day long, the graffiti has grown like weeds."

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Moma boarded up in Soho, Manhattan on May 7, 2020. John Taggart for NBC

The MoMA Design store in SoHo. 

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A side of a restaurant in Soho, Manhattan on May 7, 2020. John Taggart for NBC

A cryptic message decorates the side of a restaurant in SoHo.

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Graffiti on 7th Avenue, Manhattan on May 7, 2020. John Taggart for NBC

A cyclist passes an empty store on 7th Avenue in Manhattan. 

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A Sephora store on Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn.

A Sephora store on Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn.
John Taggart / for NBC News
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The "P" from the logo of Palace, an apparel store in SoHo, is incorporated into the word "Pandemic."

The "P" from the logo of Palace, an apparel store in SoHo, is incorporated into the word "Pandemic."
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A scene on East Broadway in Chinatown in Manhattan on May 7, 2020. John Taggart for NBC

East Broadway in Manhattan's Chinatown. 

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A USPS truck covered with tags on Canal Street in Chinatown.

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