Tagger Who Wrote ‘Done’ Throughout the UWS Volunteers to Clean Up Graffiti; ‘I’m Very Sorry’

“Albert” painting over graffiti at 79th & Broadway

By Joy Bergmann

The confessed ‘Done’ graffiti tagger says he’s cleaning up his act, and volunteered for NYPD’s citywide “Graffiti Clean Up” event on Saturday to start making amends to his community. 

“I want people to know I’ve changed. I’ve learned my lesson and I’m very sorry,” says the 19-year-old, a lifelong Upper West Sider whom WSR agreed to call “Albert” after his favorite writer, Camus, in exchange for a candid interview prior to his case being adjudicated. 

Albert says he started tagging late last year as an “inane” response to multiple stressors. Quarantining boredom. Family problems. Feeling stuck since graduating high school and not yet finding a job or college that fit. “I couldn’t really do anything, so I just thought it’d be fun to just spray [Done] around all over the place and get my name out there. And when I said ‘Done with Life’ I just wanted to get attention.”

He got it when 24th Precinct officers say they caught him defacing property and arrested him in late January. 

Spending one night in the 2-4’s holding cell was enough motivation to declare himself done with vandalism. “It was bad. I didn’t like it,” says Albert. “I realized I upset a lot of people…especially with the Soldiers’ monument. I don’t know what I was thinking…I promise: no more…I’ve patched myself up and got my shit together.” 

To start proving it, Albert signed up for the 20th Precinct’s clean up crew and was among the first volunteers to show up Saturday morning. 

“Albert” with Officers Groger and Vasquez on Amsterdam Ave

He headed out to paint over graffiti at multiple UWS sites, supervised by Officer Edward Groger and Officer Roberto Vasquez, Neighborhood Coordination Officers with the 20th. Asked how he felt after covering other taggers’ scrawls, he said “Helpful.”

Lt. Anthony Lavino, who heads up Special Operations and addresses quality-of-life concerns in the 20th, says the amount of graffiti has remained “pretty steady” over his six years in the area. “Sometimes it’s because [taggers] just want to be noticed. Sometimes there’s more malicious intent; they just want to cause damage,” he says. “In the 2-0 Precinct, we have virtually no gang graffiti that I’ve seen.”

He says community input is key to attacking vandalism early and often. “If graffiti is observed, call 311, call 911. Report it to us,” says Lavino. “If that information isn’t related to us, we may not know about it.”  The NYPD has also established a new email address where residents may send photos of locations needing attention: Graffiti@nypd.org

Albert vows never to be part of any future complaints. 

He says he’s now putting his energy into reading “a ton of philosophy. I read Aristotle and Sartre for fun.” He hopes that when the Covid-19 virus recedes and hiring picks up, he’ll find a “non-cubicle” job or give college another try. He’s started painting again — abstract works on canvas — and yearns to take more in-person classes at The Art Students League. “There are a lot of old people there. I really like talking to them about art.” 

NEWS | 53 comments | permalink
    1. chuck d says:

      Good for him. I hope he keeps it up.

      Also, restorative justice is a good thing to do. Smart on every level.

      • Bob Lamm says:

        Completely agree with your comment about this young guy and about restorative justice.

    2. Duh says:

      Calling 311 is ok but tying up 911 for graffiti is ridiculous.

    3. Lisa says:

      This is so impressive. Thank you to whoever suggested this method of making amends to “Albert”, and thank you to his parents for letting him sit in a holding cell overnight.

    4. Cat S. says:

      I was so angry as I watched “Done” proliferate, but now I can only sympathize with M.Camus. This year has been hard on all of us, but one of the groups most affected has to be young people whose plans and trajectory was suddenly shut down. Sending Albert a hug.

    5. Glenn Richter says:

      Really? Unless this perp has an evil clone, I’ve seen lots of what I believe are new “DONE’ tags, especially in the upper 90s.

    6. LL says:

      Wow. I just saw another done tag down the street and was wondering what was up. That is so impressive that he is cleaning up

      • ST says:

        Can we stop being impressed by someone doing the right thing? Have our standards slip so low?

    7. Ohreally Ohwhy says:

      Oh really so you want to have for no for the graffiti but also you want to say no we don’t want to have the painting for horses and humans and the time for 5000 years too?

      https://www.wired.com/2011/11/cave-painting-colors/

    8. Chameleonz says:

      ???
      He is not cleaning
      He is painting
      He should be scrubbing it clean as punishment but if might be too much for this bored snowflake
      PPOOR BABY HAD NOTHING TO DO
      In NYC that is a nonsense excuse

      • Sarah says:

        I bet all your 19-year-old decisions were well-thought-out, too.

        • Truth and Reason says:

          There’s a difference between something not being well thought out and it being illegal. “Albert” is a grown *ss adult, not a kid. Remember that profile a few articles back of the “young” candidate running for city counsel? His apparent youth was making it harder for him to win votes. So long as we treat ADULTS like “Albert” as though they are children, we make it harder for guys like that candidate to break through.

          Albert is an adult. And he belongs in jail.

        • NYYgirl says:

          (My comment was for Sarah)

        • Jo Baldwin says:

          Please. please, please, don’t go there. Oy vey, the memories.

      • Irish says:

        You obviously had nothing to do, typing this comment

    9. Not Impressed says:

      He seems more interested in telling us he’s reading Sartre and Camus than anything else. I was among the readers who expressed serious concern about this person before their identity was known, because I thought they were suicidal. Upon reading this, my eyes can’t roll any farther back into my head.

    10. UWSer says:

      I wonder if a black 19 yo would get the same kid gloves treatment.

    11. Mark Moore says:

      I’m glad you’ve reformed yourself “Albert” but I saw probably 4 or 5 new DONE tags just this weekend that I hadn’t noticed before. Get out there and clean them all.

    12. Will says:

      Fresh canvas

    13. Bobby says:

      Done is Dunz0

    14. Sally says:

      Good for him– I’m rooting for you Albert!

    15. dc says:

      “Albert,” love your comment about the Art Students League! How I miss the in-person classes.

    16. Leon says:

      Would a young criminal with a different demographic background be treated the same way? Surprised the woke mob hasn’t jumped all over this. A poor minority kid would not have had the opportunity to do this, nor would he get a PR piece in WSR about how well-read he is.

      • Sarah says:

        This may be hard for you to understand, but some people have principles rather than just gratifying their racist rancors through politics. The point of the “woke mob” is not “incarcerate more white teenagers, set free more teenagers of color,” it’s “reduce unnecessary incarceration FOR ALL.” No leftist is going to think ANY 19-year-old should be punished much more than this for just minor property crimes.

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        almost every day, Leon advocates for jail sentences for repeat “quality of life” crimes. Most of these would affect poor and working class teenagers (turnstile jumping) and/or homeless (public urination).

        Here we have an example of a repeat “quality of life” crime that was resolved simply through restorative justice, no incarceration. Great! the lesson is not that Albert deserves jail time but that the other people don’t. Restorative justice works.

      • Sally Sims says:

        Wait. His case hasn’t even been adjudicated yet, so you don’t know how a judge or “the system” has favored him or not. He volunteered for this clean up. And he’s (so far) spent a night in jail for vandalism, which doesn’t seem like kid gloves treatment.

        • Mark Moore says:

          He spent one night in the precinct lockup. That’s a far cry from Rikers. He should do an hour in Rikers for every time he wrote DONE on private or public property.

    17. Sandra D Martin says:

      God bless that young man he saw the Error in his Way’s…. Too much Graffiti make the City look like an Insane Asylum …Lord please help NYC

      • lynn says:

        I discovered the ‘Done’ graffiti in the background of a live stream video of a homeless man waving a knife at people on the corner of 72nd and B’way. When you call 911 they tell you it’s a homeless issue and if you call 311 they tell you it’s a police issue, and they have an 8 hour window to convince the man to accept assistance. Imagine my surprise when this same man was sitting in front of my doorway the next morning with a pair of scissors in his hands. A few hours later he was camped out with a group on 72nd and WEA. On Saturday a woman was assaulted on the corner of 72nd and WEA. Other than the Citizen app I haven’t seen one word about this. Arresting and jailing people for graffiti while allowing violent and mentally ill people to ‘live’ on the street is what makes this city look like an insane asylum.

    18. Vincent Dolce says:

      Sellout!!! Toy writer …..shame cant see why graffiti is essential…goes back to caveman days …btw 25 million on a Banksy this week was bought should we paint over that ????????????

    19. Forgiving Joanne says:

      Agreed he’s young and I’ve done stupider things at that age (and older.) He is contrite and he didn’t hurt anyone so let it go. And the property damage is fixable.

      Stop attacking him for being woke. He’s sorry and making amends. Move on and find something else to gripe about.

    20. RW says:

      This is AWESOME. We all make mistakes in life. The winners in life are the ones that see his/her mistakes and works to improve upon them. This is great. Love it!

    21. Joel P says:

      Upstanding young man, knows and corrects his errors and hold himself accountable.
      Kudos to you young blood.

    22. Lean oner says:

      Eff the buff. Cities without graff are boring and run of the mill, you squares will never truely understand

    23. Jonathan Goldman says:

      My kids have loved spotting this tag around the neighborhood. It’s been like a scavenger hunt for us. I enjoyed the ambiguity of the tag. “Done,” can mean so many things, not just “I’m done with all this s***” but also, “this tag is done,” “my work here is done,” “you are done reading this,” etc. I will miss this.

      • Peter says:

        Buy the whole neighborhood and tag at will, so that your kids can have their entertainment.

        You will miss vandalism of public and (other people’s) private property?!

        • Will says:

          There’s nothing to miss because it will be right back. New York is New York again and that comes with graffiti

        • Leigh says:

          Sounds like Jonathan is able to make the best out of a not-so-ideal situation. Doesn’t mean he would rather have the graffiti than not… just means he turned a negative into a positive. Graffiti is inevitable in NYC (unfortunately), so we may as well have some “fun” with it (especially if you have cooped-up little kids!).

      • Ish Kabibble says:

        Jonathan, I’m not sure if you are going for laughs or not.

    24. Spence Halperin says:

      Clearly attention-seeking and he got attention.

    25. Citygirl57 says:

      It’s nice to hear “old people are great”… often these days one can be marginalized. Also, loved taking classes at The Art Students League back in the ‘80’s! Best of luck!

    26. Eric says:

      Perhaps Albert will remove the DONE on the wall of the west side community garden and the manhole cover at 90 and Columbus Avenue

    27. Reann Seedath says:

      Would “Albert” get the same second chance and restorative justice options if he was black or latino? I guess not.