Below the hustle and bustle of College Avenue and George Street, below the classroom buildings of higher education, below the towering brick river dorms on the banks, below the concrete jungle gym of Diener Park – there exists a sub-culture as real as the campus lifestyle above. This is an unspoken, underrated and largely unknown sub-culture that rests quietly beneath the footsteps of every student, faculty member, administrative professional, and maintenance worker. Sandwiched between the traffic and exhaust of Route 18 and the life source of the river – directly on the banks of the old Raritan – there is a footpath that connects an underground lifestyle to a university community. Here lies the ultimate urban art gallery. Here lies the area dubbed by RR as Graffiti Mecca.
The story begins almost eight years ago. My friend Joe and I were looking for some good spots to hit up, and our skating excursions led us to Diener Park in the midnight hour. We always took note of a gate along the edge of the park that connected to an overpass which seemed to lead over Route 18 to the base of the Raritan River. This time we also noticed something else – that the padlocked chain holding the gate closed had just enough give to allow our entrance into the unknown. After building up enough adrenaline, we convinced ourselves to check things out. As quiet as we tried to be, our uncooperative blades announced our presence to whoever or whatever was out there. Slowly making our way down to the bottom of the steps, it was hard to see much, but there was still a strong sense that we were not welcome. Before long, we both heard a noise that was enough to send us clunking back up those steps as fast as we could. Unsure if we were being chased, we took off as if our lives were in danger, squeezed through the fence, and never went back to the spot again.
Fast forward to November 2005 – Rutgers Rarities in full effect. A rare daytime investigation places the Team at Johnson Park in Piscataway and the overpass once again comes to mind. The mystery weighs heavy in recalling that fateful day. Across the river, the area is located and the afternoon sun sheds some light on the subject. The overpass leads to a canal path along the river that spans both directions as far as our eyes can see. Even more interesting are the brilliant colors and markings that are clearly visible along this path. Scanning left towards the Johnson and Johnson headquarters, a series of vivid murals stand out, transforming the concrete wall at the base of the George Street exit into a tapestry of artistic expression. It was in that moment that our eyes were opened up to the area immediately dubbed Graffiti Mecca, and thus the obsession began.