Graffiti Legend Unmasked As NYPD Cop
Nov 6, 2011 9:52 a.m.
Police discovered the identity of one of New York City's most prolific graffiti vandals -- and he is one of their own.
Steven Weinberg, 43, a patrolman who retired from the NYPD in 2001 after hurting his leg, is the notorious "Neo" -- one of the peskiest subway taggers of the 1980s.
And the spray-painting miscreant is making a comeback, cops said.
Transit cops investigating graffiti in northeast Queens watched as Neo's tag began appearing all over train trestles and highway overpasses the last two years, not far from Weinberg's home.
Meanwhile, Neo was taunting investigators. Without identifying himself by name, the aging vandal gave a lengthy interview to the underground graffiti website SubwayOutlaws.com in which he bragged about his time as Neo and identified himself as a cop and "a cripple."
Weinberg, who uses a cane, was not hard to track down once his name finally surfaced.
Cops found "numerous emails" talking about Weinberg's "graffiti-related activities," as well as Neo's Myspace page, which had comments revealing the ex-cop's birthdate.
Weinberg was arrested at his home on Aug. 3, 2010, and charged with felony criminal mischief and misdemeanor making graffiti and possessing a graffiti instrument.
His trial could begin as early as Thursday in Queens Criminal Court.
The married dad does not deny that he once was Neo.
"I started 'writing' in Flushing, Queens, in 1979, mainly hitting up my name on the stairways in my building," Weinberg told SubwayOutlaws in the undated interview, confirmed by Weinberg's lawyer as authentic.
Neo mercilessly hit trucks, buses, mail trucks, parks and schools with his aerosol artillery, but the favored targets were subway cars, which helped Neo achieve "all-city" status -- graffiti slang for taggers whose work was seen on subway trains in the boroughs.
Weinberg hung up his paint can and decided to go straight -- joining the NYPD in 1995, at the age of 27.
But his career derailed when, as a patrolman hunting for victims' remains in a homicide investigation, he tripped over a fence, seriously damaging the nerves in his leg, his lawyer said. He left the job in May 2001 on an approximately $38,000-a-year disability pension.
Police said that, unable to work, Weinberg returned his attention to his first love, graffiti.
But his lawyer, Patrick Broderick, said there is no way the crippled cop went back to his rebel roots.
The current charges -- and his client's alleged confession -- are bogus, Broderick claims. The lawyer insists there is a Neo copycat on the streets. "It just couldn't be him," he said.
Weinberg has since filed suit against the city in Manhattan Supreme Court, claiming his 2010 arrest was based on "defective information."
Read more: New York Post