Two men found fatally struck by a train in a subway tunnel in East New York Wednesday morning have been identified as two French graffiti artists.
Julien Blanc, 34, and Pierre Audebert, 28, shared two dreams, according to their boss, the artist Ceet Fouad.
The first was to visit New York City. Fouad, also a street artist, who’s known for his chicken character with bulging eyes, brought them to New York to film a short documentary. During the filming, they interviewed veterans of New York City’s graffiti heyday of the 1970s and 1980s.
Their second dream, Fouad said, was to paint a subway train. “It was like winning the World Cup, winning a trophy,” Fouad said.
Fouad said the last time he saw his friends was at dinner Tuesday night. He said they didn’t discuss going out to paint trains and he had no idea they were planning to do it.
“I didn’t think in New York they would take that kind of risk,” Fouad said. “If I knew that they were going to do a train in New York, since they’re under my responsibility … if I knew, I would tell them not to do it.”
Fouad only found out the next day when he heard reports that two people had been hit by a train, and the police called him to identify the bodies.
The NYPD reports that the operator of a northbound 3 train spotted the men at 6:50 a.m., but didn’t hit them. The preliminary investigation found they’d been hit by a train hours earlier.
This incident comes as the MTA has focused its attention on addressing trespassing on subway tracks. The agency reported in February that there was a 20 percent increase of people on the tracks from 2019 to 2021 — from 1,062 people trespassing in 2019 to 1,267 in 2021. Last year, 200 of those trespassing incidents resulted in a collision with a train and 68 of them were fatal.
The MTA plans to pilot new technology that can identify when someone is on the tracks using lasers and CCTV cameras on tracks and on trains.
The agency couldn’t say how many trains have been tagged with graffiti in recent years, but several Instagram accounts dedicated to chronicling trains show multiple incidents each month. Several graffiti artists from New York report that most of the artists are likely from out of the country, and are not local.
The general public doesn’t see trains with graffiti, as they did in the 1970s and 1980s because the MTA has a policy of generally not allowing vandalized trains to go into service until they’ve been repaired.
Matos said the two men didn’t ask him any specific questions about painting trains nowadays, but he acknowledged that a lot of overseas artists are still attracted to New York City’s subways.
“If they do a train that’s a huge feather in their cap,” Matos said. “There’s a lot of kids that come here all the time, and just unfortunately they went to a really bad location.”
Matos said most graffiti artists who do paint trains now don’t have as elaborate pictures as his generation had.
“The stuff they're doing is very simple because the time frame is so short, but the energy is there, the substance is there,” Matos said. “In terms of full style, it’s not developed because it’s very easy to work on a wall for 10 hours, you can do anything. But to work for one hour, one hour-and-a-half, on a subway train, it’s very hard.”
Blanc leaves behind two children, one and four-years old. Audebert leaves behind a partner.