New York Today: The Story Behind the Street Hearts

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Have a heart.

Credit
Kholood Eid for The New York Times

Good morning on this chilly Tuesday.

You might have stepped on several.

They’re pink, blue, yellow and green, and drawn in a single swoop.

They’re hearts, ranging from the size of a quarter to the size of a quarter block, and for about three years, a street artist has anonymously drawn as many as 100 a day on the sidewalks of downtown Manhattan.

We got a tip, and tracked him down.

Hash Halper, 38, drew his first hearts in 2014 while working at Kossar’s Bagels & Bialys on the Lower East Side, he said. “The reason I started drawing hearts all over the city is because I fell in love with a woman.”

Mr. Halper was raised in modern Orthodox communities in Philadelphia and Washington Heights, and attended Yeshiva University before becoming less religious in his 20s and later finding work at the bagel store.

After he met the woman, he would pay homage to her by writing her initials, “MSB,” along with hearts, on the sidewalks and buildings that lay along his route to work.

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“I wanted to infuse that romance into the city,” he said.

They stopped seeing each other; he left Kossar’s to help produce art shows and work as a deliveryman at Postmates. But he continued the project, which he calls “New York Romantic.”

He draws all these hearts, he said, because he feels New York is losing its romance, with people holding phones instead of looking at each other.

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Hash Halper chalks hearts into city sidewalks because he feels New York is losing its romance.

Credit
Kholood Eid for The New York Times

He also hopes that chalking hearts (and words like “love,” “peace,””dream” and “respect”) around the city might influence New Yorkers’ behavior and decisions.

At first, his street art mainly influenced the decisions of police officers, who arrested him several times before he switched to colored sidewalk chalk from spray chalk, and to sidewalks from buildings and scaffolding.

His punishment was community service. “Drawing hearts is community service,” Mr. Halper said, “so it’s ironic to get community service for something that you feel is a community service.”

The police don’t bother Mr. Halper much these days, but he is still occasionally approached by an officer, he said.

“I say, ‘You’re a cop? Are you in a relationship? What’s your emotional problem? Why are you so upset about a heart?’”

In preparation for Valentine’s Day, Mr. Halper will be chalking hearts around SoHo today, on Broadway between Canal and Houston Streets.

Here’s what else is happening:

Weather


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Bundle up — wind chills are in the teens this morning. Then a bright afternoon, with a high of 36.

Warmer weather awaits on Wednesday.

In the News

Water, 13 million gallons of which is pumped out on a regular dry day, consistently plagues an already crumbling transit system. [New York Times]

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Workers sealing a water leak along a tunnel near a subway station in Lower Manhattan in January.

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Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Donald Trump Jr.’s wife opened an envelope containing a suspicious white powdery substance. It turned out to be cornstarch. [New York Times]

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who faced ethical questions over his political fund-raising, will tackle campaign finance in his annual address. [New York Times]

A judge awarded $6.7 million to 21 graffiti artists whose works were destroyed at 5Pointz in Queens. [New York Times]

A federal judge overseeing a corruption case will allow the government’s key witness to wear a suit in court — rather than jail attire. [New York Times]

Ash Wednesday and Valentines Day fall on the same day this year. What’s a good Christian to do? [New York Times]

Andy King, a Bronx councilman, was ordered to undergo sensitivity and ethics training after a harassment complaint made by a female staffer. [New York Times]

Puerto Rican refugees from Hurricane Maria who’ve been living in hotel rooms in New York paid for by the federal government are running out of time. [New York Times]

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Rafael Febres and his son John who have been living in a Red Roof Inn in Hartford, Conn., since Hurricane Maria forced them from their home in Puerto Rico.

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Jessica Hill for The New York Times

Streets in East New York, Sheepshead Bay and Washington Heights are among the city’s worst for vehicle break-ins, a new report found. [New York Post]

In New Jersey, the black infant mortality rate is three times higher than it is for white infants. [NJ.com]

A hunt for the worst post office in the city. [Patch]

Today’s Metropolitan Diary: “Stockpiling Sympathy

For a global look at what’s happening, see Your Morning Briefing.

Coming Up Today

Celebrate Mardi Gras with the trumpeter Joey Morant and his band as they play New Orleans-style jazz and blues at Brownsville Recreation Center in Brooklyn. Noon. [Free] …

… Or at a Fat Tuesday celebration with live soul and jazz music at Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg. 8 p.m. [$12]

Measure your spellcheck dependency at an adults-only New York City Spelling Bee at Caveat on the Lower East Side. 7:30 p.m. [$15 to spell; $7 to watch]

Looking ahead: Feb. 15 is the deadline to apply for the 2018 New York City marathon. You can enter the drawing or claim guaranteed entry here.

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Don’t forget to sign up for this year’s marathon.

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Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Islanders host Blue Jackets, 7 p.m. (MSG+). Devils at Flyers, 7 p.m. (MSG+2). Rangers at Wild, 8 p.m. (MSG).

Alternate-side parking remains in effect until Wednesday.

For more events, see The New York Times’s Arts & Entertainment guide.

And Finally…

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