NYC Illegal Billboards Workshop

Illegalbillboardworkshop300x249 Rami Tabello of and I are organizing a workshop to help New Yorkers fight illegal advertising in New York. Rami is coming down from Toronto just for this workshop, and it's a unique opportunity.  I know Stay Free! readers are interested in this kind of thing, hope to see you there.

The details:
Activists estimate that half the billboards in New York City are illegal. Between fudged permits, lack of enforcement, and millions in profit, outdoor advertising has become a corporate black market that wont flinch at breaking laws to get your attention. On July 1st, the Anti-Advertising Agency and Rami Tabello of will give a free workshop teaching you how to identify illegal advertising and get it taken down. You will leave this workshop equipped to have illegal signs removed in your neighborhood

Canadian activist group is responsible for the removal over 100 illegal billboards in the City of Toronto and will reveal how the billboard industry gets away with breaking the law and what New Yorkers can do to stop it.

sign up now at
Tuesday July 1st, 2008 6pm - Free
Eyebeam Center for Art and Technology
540 W. 21st St.
New York, NY 10011

Posted by Steve Lambert on June 18, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Campaign for Halloween on the Weekend

Halloween Halloween falls on a Wednesday this year. Friend-of-Stay Free! Heidi Cody considers this unacceptable.  No time to make costumes. Should the parties have already happened or will they take place this weekend? No daylight trick-or-treating because the folks with the candy are still working.

But Heidi isn't one to let a problem go unsolved, so she has formed the Campaign for Halloween On the Weekend. She is proposing that the federal government move Halloween from October 31 to the Last Saturday in October so that we can avoid the blight of a mid-week holiday.

I can't support this idea enough. Go to the C.H.O.W. website to find out more.

Posted by Charles Star on October 29, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (7)

Fun Tools for Reclaiming Public Space

Design Camouflage

F9pqla9f7pcmxmjmedium Speaking of pranks, while at the OpenLab I wrote some step-by-step instructions on how to mimic corporate and government signage on the site instructables.  The guide outlines the most current methods to match fonts, colors, and layouts to make your new signs look as legitimate as possible.  Combined with the Billboard Liberation Front's classic manual, the Art and Science of Billboard Improvement and some basic computer image and vector editing skills, anyone should be able to alter signs or create their own.  All that's left is your own motivation and message. 

DIY Budget Gallery

Imagine attending a great garage sale, art opening, and block party all on one city sidewalk.  Between 2000-2005 I ran an outdoor guerilla art gallery in San Francisco, called the Budget Gallery where we would set up gallery style shows in high-traffic, "underutilized" public spaces like vacant lots and chain link fences.  All the art was sold on the honor system and was generally very cheap.  With a mailing list of over 700 people, they were very well attended by both followers of the gallery as well as passersby. 

The Budget Gallery was always meant to be a sort of "open source franchise" and a how-to guide was well overdue.  I was in an instruction writing mood, so I created DIY Budget Gallery - a wiki that explains how to organize these street-level art show/interventions.  You can use the information to create a Budget Gallery, or piecemeal for a related project.

Posted by Steve Lambert on October 24, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0)

311 street photo project could use your help

Firehydrant Steve Lambert and I are working on photo project called "People's 311" and are asking New Yorkers to submit photos of 311 conditions in their neighborhoods. To give you a rough idea of what we're going for, see

In order to launch this right, we need to get a lot more photos up (cell phone cameras are ok!). Here's what we need photos of:

* potholes
* sidewalk or bikelane hazards
* illegal outdoor advertising
* dead or dying street trees
* peeling paint in public places (subways)
* damaged or open fire hydrants
* missing or dangling traffic signs
* fallen over newspaper boxes
* illegal dumping

...and the like. You can submit them via our flickr pool. If you know how to map photos in flickr, please do.

We'll also be doing a web page ( describing the project. In a nutshell, People's 311 is a crowdsourcing response to Bloomberg's 311 Scout program, which he announced last week.  He'll be sending city workers out to "drive every city street on a monthly basis" to report 311 problems.  Seems like something citizens could help with...

Posted by carrie on August 20, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (3)

London charges SUVs $50 to enter; could New York be next?

Photo illustrating 'traffic calming' taken from the Project for Public Space website How's this for a transportation alternatives: the major of London recently announced plans to charge SUVs $50 to enter his fine city. Tiny electric cars, in contrast, pay zero.

The timing couldn't be better for those of us in New York: today a coalition of 125 organizations announced its five-point for traffic reform, including... yes, congestion pricing (point #5). (Points #1-4 are pretty cool too, including my favorite, traffic calming.)

The coalition behind this deserves serious brownie points for coming up with a name that even Frank Luntz could love: the Citywide Coalition for Traffic Relief. (What right-minded person could oppose traffic relief?) Let's hope they have their way with City Hall.

(via the most excellent Streetsblog)

Posted by carrie on November 15, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (1)

A Call to Artists - and to Owners of Broken iPods

Comingsoon We hereby announce that Stay Free! is seeking artists and (broken) ipods for an upcoming project about planned obsolescence. Why does the portable player widely considered the hallmark of savvy design typically die in little over a year? Are ipods "made to break"? Or simply, as some critics have suggested, run-of-the-mill e-waste?

If you know someone who owns an iPod, chances are good that you know someone with a broken ipod. Environment groups have taken Apple to task for its dirty practices, and we'd like to join them -- by making lemonade out of lemons.

Here's what we're looking for:


Transform your broken ipod into something deliciously useless: finger puppet? toy car? coaster? Use your creatively to come with something beautiful, funny, or otherwise engaging. Take a photo and email it us with your contact information at temporary181 at Favorite projects will be featured in Stay Free! and ultimately exhibited in New York (venue TBA).

Artists unable to find a broken ipod should contact us for assistance (though, due to our limited resources, we recommend asking your peers first).

Deadline: *** Friday, December 8 ***


Don't have time to create something but want to help? Please donate your broken ipods to Stay Free!, a nonprofit organization. Donations are tax deductible. We'll distribute broken ipods to working local artists for this project.


Stay Free!
23 Hawthorne Street
Brooklyn, NY 11225

For more information about this project, stay tuned to


"Good Luck with that Broken iPod"
New York Times (February 4, 2006)

"Pain in the Pod" 
Chicago Tribune/news services (July 24, 2006)

Greenpeace's Green My Apple campaign

Computer Take Back campaign


The iPod Is Bad Garbage: An interview with Giles Slade

Posted by carrie on October 31, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (11)

Graffiti fights back

GraffitistickerIn response to San Francisco's anti-graffiti advertising campaign, savvy pranksters have come up with a campaign of their own. Stickers like the one on the right are showing up on billboards in the Bay Area.

The small text reads: According to SF Public Works Code Article 23 SEC.1301 graffiti results in visual pollution and is hereby deemed a public nuisance. There's just one thing they forgot to mention...ADVERTISING IS "VISUAL POLLUTION."

(Via Consumerist)

Posted by Charles Star on July 19, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Dutch pedophilia

Lolita No longer content to furtively masturbate to Saved by the Bell reruns, pedophiles in the Netherlands have announced that they are forming a political party to advocate for lowering the age of consent to 12.

Right now, their biggest problem is that it is illegal to shoot their campaign commercials without compromising artistic integrity. Or losing their erections.

Posted by Charles Star on May 30, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (2)

What's REALLY wrong with the NSA

I know there's all kinds of ruckus about how the NSA has been keeping track of every phone call we've ever made, and, while this is a huge problem, the real problem is that the NSA has some kind of super-fetus program in place and has been using them, as in the case of Gen. Michael Hayden (pictured here) as their chief.

Now, this picture doesn't show it, but I believe behind the podium you could see his umbilical cord snaking out of his tiny trousers and down into a bucket of custard or Fruity Pebbles or something. And everything here is scaled down to fetus-sized. Look at those teeny (yet still seemingly too tight) glasses!

I mean, the real problem here is that this fucker is in charge of the NSA and yet he has no life experience-- hell, he's not even born! And I think we know why this administration's so against abortion: they want all the fetuses for themselves, to staff the NSA!

Plus, if all this isn't bad enough, there's nude pictures of this unborn fucker all over the internet. See?

Posted by Jason Torchinsky on May 17, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Why "free" often doesn't come cheap

Whitemansburden Interesting anecdote in Sunday's New York Times: in his new book The White Man's Burden, William Easterly discusses one example of how the millions of dollars that the U.S. and other Western nations give in foreign aid are wasted.

Say you want to reduce the number of deaths due to malaria. Public health officials tend to agree that a cheap way to do that is to encourage the use of insecticide-laden mosquito nets in poverty-stricken, equitorial countries. So the U.S. has poured millions of dollars into distributing free mosquito nets. Problem is, the nets end up getting used for things other than protecting people from mosquitos. Why? Because people face no costs for taking multiple nets--or for using the nets for whatever purpose they like. Easterly shows that by working with local groups to sell the nets for as little as 50 cents, donor nations can dramatically improve the results--more nets get out to people who use them for the intended purpose, and thus fewer new cases of malaria.

I love this story because it validates some long-held instincts I've had about selling Stay Free. Whenever I bring bunches of Stay Free! to conferences or other events, I try to sell them for low price--usually $1--instead of giving 'em away free. People who get something for free too often treat it as trash; they'll pick it up without thinking about whether they actually want it, but even a nominal fee will jolt them into consciousness and force them to make a decision.

Posted by carrie on March 20, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (3)