Nosy Neighbor: Who’s Painting Those Faces All Over?

Do you know who’s painting those faces all over? I’ve been seeing them everywhere. —N.

“Several months ago, I first started noticing stickers around Tribeca with that face (and the word ‘Harlem’),” said Daniel Albanese (TheDustyRebel), my go-to source for questions about street art and graffiti. “As I’m sure you’ve noticed, they are now all over the place. Because many of these have appeared with the word ‘Harlem’ next to them, most people are using that as an identifier.”

Walking around Tribeca, you’ll find enough circumstantial evidence to place Harlem in (or at least amid) the group of young men who grew up in Tribeca and call themselves TriRaQ. As young men will, they drink cheap vodka and horse around. From a 2012 post on their Tumblr:

You know your’re from TriRaQ when: you still think the 9 train exists

You know you’re from TriRaQ when: you see James Gandolfini on the street and he says whats up.

Here’s a video, tagged #triraq, posted by Hanner:

And they mark their territory. Take 111 Reade, above the old MaryAnn’s, and on the Cosmopolitan Hotel. At the far left of the first photo is “Harlem” and then “Triraq,” followed by what might be the TriRaQis’ individual nicknames. The second photo shows that Harlem’s signature face shows up on the Cosmopolitan Hotel.

Triraq tags and Harlem on 111 ReadeTriraq and Harlem on Cosmopolitan HotelThis juxtaposition on Chambers could be a mere coincidence….

triraq graffiti on ChambersAnd then there’s the Harlem-decorated skateboard outside 15 Warren, the old “World of Suits” store where at least some of the TriRaQ crew was involved in a pop-up gallery around New Year’s.

Harlem skateboard on WarrenIn my post about the 15 Warren art show, I expressed dismay about the spray-painting of “Triraq” on a bus stop. “TRIRAQ NIGGA” commented TGOD, while Scott Goldman asked how I could make such a claim: “I’m curious what evidence you have to link this art show to random tags on the street. The tag you posted has been on chambers street for months prior to this show.”

I replied with a link to Olivia Ballard’s Tumblr. The artists in the 15 Warren show were not identified, but Ballard appears to have created a string installation (she includes photos of it on her Tumblr), which she’s referring to here:

come through to get lost in my web…! youll see a ton of great work from all of the Triraq all-stars

And 93thewayitshouldbe posted this handy photo.

While abelineyay posted this photo, tagging it #15warren.

triraq shirt by abelineyay tagged 15warren and triraqThe tags on this photo by Stephen K Schuster: #15warren and #triraq.

by stephen k schuster tagged 15warren and triraqBut, I hear certain people say, how can you assume that Harlem is affiliated with TriRaQ and/or had anything to do with the 15 Warren show? For one thing, he wrote his name on 15 Warren itself and on the planter outside.

Harlem tags diptychNote the tags on the below photo (#15warren was later added to them).

till im gone harlem by mccvbreilvampAnd this by everyoneonly….

screengrab of photo by everyone only

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Previous Nosy Neighbor posts:
What’s moving into 415 Broadway?
What’s happening at Greenwich and Chambers?
Is 37 Warren’s sidewalk shed ever coming down?
When will 87 Leonard be done?
What are those panels on the sanitation garage?
How many fake restaurants are on Seamless?
Is a 60-story hotel going up on W. Broadway?
Why are the BMCC trailers still there?
Didn’t Bread Tribeca have plans to reopen?
When is the Arman building getting its Arman?
Why is 15 Warren painted that way?
Where do Laughing Man’s profits go?
Are dogs allowed at outdoor restaurant tables?
When will FiOS come to Tribeca?
What’s up with 60 Hudson?
Will the W. Broadway construction ever end?
What’s happening at 87 Leonard?
When will the West Street trailers be removed?
What goes on at 444 Greenwich?
When will the Chambers Street Elevators be fixed?
Why are Goldman Sachs’s lights always on?
What’s the story with the Batmobile?
What’s going on with 88 Thomas?
Is another Equinox opening in IPN?
Any update on the Chambers construction?
Who’s responsible for the snowflake lights?
Is 93 Reade adding a floor?
Is 28 N. Moore going residential?
Why does cobblestoning require sprinklers?
Do newspaper boxes need permits?
Why does 161 Duane say “Whalebone”?
What’s the story behind those Harrison townhouses?
What are those white things at 137 Franklin?
What’s that thing at W. Broadway and Leonard?
What happens to old cobblestones?
Are buses allowed to idle on Laight?
What’s happening with the Verizon building?
Will the construction at Hudson and Laight ever end?
Is N. Moore getting cobblestoned?
Can you recommend any Tribeca picture books?
Why are those shuttles on Greenwich?
Who enforces sidewalk-café regulations?
What’s going on at 27 Desbrosses?
What are those black pellets on Pier 25?
What do the characters on 47 Vestry mean?
Where is the Special Forces monument going?
Who’s moving into 151 Hudson?
What’s up with those Verizon carts?
Where was the original Blues Bar?
Who are the guys in the geeky pants?
Why are the windows above Ponte’s boarded up?
Can we walk on the West Street medians?
What’s going on in 157 Hudson?
What is this P.C. Richard & Son Theater I keep hearing about?
What’s the story behind the lights at 289 Church?
What’s the Dream House at 275 Church?
How come every every film and TV shoot seems to have a trailer with doors marked “Lucy” and “Desi”?

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  1. Hi Erik,

    Thanks for the analysis. I somewhat understand (but still do not like) tagging plywood on a construction sidewalk shed for the sake of art- but graffiti on a beautiful limestone on a historic building? This is simply criminal.

    Has there been any repercussions to these graffiti artists? Is there anyway to stop this?

    • I think the only way to stop it is to catch them or hope they grow up (at least enough to see the difference between construction plywood and a stone façade).

  2. What if you just ran these cool guys down and punched them in their nut sacks? #NutSackAttaQ

  3. I am a substitute math teacher at Stuyvesant High School and have heard several of my students exclaim “Triraq!” in the hallways. I asked one of my kids (whose name I won’t include) about such antics. He led me to believe that “Triraq” consists of mostly affluent white males, one of whom lives directly above Whole Foods in TriBeCa and holds bi-weekly meetings at his condominium.

    One of my students also explained to me that the artist Lucien Smith is involved with this group. A young artist whose work recently fetched an upward of $400,000 at auction.

    And apparently they’re no stranger to night life, they could be found at ‘Baby Grand’ (the new nightlife club attached to the TriBeCa Grand run by Paul Sevigny) getting bottle service.

    It turns out the graffiti you see is unrelated to the core – younger kids simply seek approval and think vandalism is a gateway to the “Triraq” movement.

    What’s most interesting about this mysterious bunch is that they all seem to simultaneously contribute to the continuous redevelopment of their native TriBeCa and wage war with it.

    I’ll continue to ask around and post information when I can. Getting to the bottom is going to be a struggle, as they blend right into the community and are extremely well-connected.

  4. “wage war with it” – that’s one of the funniest lines I’ve heard south of Canal Street in a long time. The “Triraq” graffiti scribbles and revolution is as fascinating as the mystery behind Victoria’s Secret.

  5. If you look closely at the face, from ear to eat you can spell out triraq in tag lettering.