When former Mayor Ed Koch entered City Hall in the late 1970s, there was rampant graffiti in the subway system. In 1981, Koch announced the use of guard dogs at train yards to deter would-be taggers—but he had actually wanted wild wolves.
In an interview with La Guardia and Wagner Archives, Koch outlined his plan for putting wild wolves to help subway cleanliness:
"Put in wolves because there's no reported case of a wolf in the wild state ever attacking a human being in North America—it's happened elsewhere, but not in North America...
"Now I tell this story to the reporters and Clyde Haberman comes in the next day and says, 'I checked your story in the library and I found it's not totally true.'.. .He said that it is true that no wolf in the wild has attacked a human being in North America but domesticated wolves that people have have attacked. But I was only talking about wild wolves, I wasn't talking about domesticated wolves. My position is if you put the wolf in and after a certain period of time he becomes domesticated, you replace him! You bring in a wild one!"
Koch credited "magical" MTA chief David Gunn for instituting a "run clean" policy in the 1980s where no subway cars could leave train yards if they were tagged, "The only reason that these graffiti writers—or artists if you wanna call them but i don't consider them artists—did what they did was so they could see it. So if they couldnt see it, by taking the car out of use immediately that interrupted the situation to the point where the graffiti writers stopped doing what they did." To Koch, Gunn is a real hero.
The three-term mayor also pointed out that graffiti in the subway feels "oppressive. When the whole subway system is covered with graffiti...it causes you to be very fearful. People stopped using the subway system, there was a huge falloff and they went to the bus system. And in terms of actual crime, the subway system was actually safer than the street, but that's not how people felt."
We asked street artist John Fekner, known from his stencils about social and environmental issues, for a comment about Koch's passing. He told us, "Both factions were tough and outspoken native New Yorkers, born and bred in the Bronx. It was an aggressive and bitter rivalry like any other New York sport teams competing against each other. A radical art battle giving a different twist on the term Subway Series."
Here's a clip of Koch from the documentary Style Wars: