It’s one of the great mysteries of urban life: Why do people throw sneakers across power lines? At last, we have an answer.
Unfortunately, it’s not a very satisfying one. The New York Times recently interviewed a New York sneaker-thrower, and his explanation was that, well, he had some old sneakers and the power lines were there. If this sounds familiar, it’s the same reason that graffiti vandals give: I have this can of Krylon and the wall is there.
Background: You’ve undoubtedly noticed that, in some urban areas, there are sneakers dangling from power lines, often in the middle of the street. It’s clear that somebody took the trouble to tie sneakers at their laces and toss them over the lines. But why?
Common beliefs: Sneakers mark gang territory or maybe places to buy drugs. But New York police officers say it isn’t so. Drug corners aren’t “the sort of thing that people advertise by leaving a sign,” a police spokesperson told the Times.
So the Times went to the source, a 16-year-old sneaker-thrower named Christopher Campbell, who lives in the Bronx. In Christopher’s neighborhood, there’s an intersection with 40 pairs of sneakers dangling from overhead wires. Why would Christopher and his pals go to such trouble? Simply to tell the world that they were there, he said. “We really don’t care who likes it or not,” he said. “This is something for us.” Someday, Christopher mused, he’d like to come back to his old neighborhood, remember the good times and see his old Reeboks swaying in the breeze.
Footnote: Con Edison, the power company, doesn’t like sneakers on its wires and removes them when it finds them. And neighborhood people, too, find the practice offensive. “I think it’s disgusting,” said one woman who lives near the 40-sneaker wires. Is sneaker-tossing illegal? That’s not clear, but it could be considered a form of criminal mischief, a police official told the Times.
I found this interesting tidbit at Civic Strategies.