NEW YORK (CBS 2) — A local artist came up with a creative way to turn old MetroCards into high-end souvenirs, but the MTA is taking a swipe at her budding business.
What do you do with your old MetroCards?
“I pass them on if it’s the last day,” one straphanger said.
Most people throw out their old MetroCards, but artist Victoria McKenzie uses them as a canvas to create miniature paintings, reports CBS 2′s Kristin Thorne.
“I have a New York City taxi, I have a few images of the World Trade Center towers,” she said. “I thought if anybody buys these, they not only get a painting of something from New York, they get a piece of New York.”
McKenzie paints out of her apartment in the East Village.
She’s been trying to sell the cards online for $48 each. She’s only had a few buyers, but this week she got a disconcerting email that is threatening to derail her enterprise.
“I was very frightened and intimidated,” she said.
The message was from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, telling McKenzie that she had to stop selling the cards because they violated the MTA’s trademarked brand and logo.
The MTA offered McKenzie the opportunity to buy a license from them, which means she would have to give them a 10 percent cut.
“They want 10 percent of my $48,” she said.
CBS 2 spoke to several straphangers, and most said they couldn’t believe that the MTA would go after an artist.
“With all the fare hikes and service cuts, they’re looking to cash in on artists instead of really looking into ways to make the service free or affordable to the public,” subway rider Rocio Silverio said.
“I think that’s unfair,” said another straphanger. “They should be doing what she’s doing.”
“I just don’t think it’s in anybody’s interest for them to come after me,” McKenzie said. “They shouldn’t be wasting their time.”
McKenzie has written to the MTA, but she hasn’t heard back from them. In the meantime, she said she’s keeping her innovative business on the tracks.
The MTA issued a statement, declaring its order for McKenzie to stop selling her cards reasonable and fair. The transit organization cited her use of the trademark without being official licensed by the MTA as the main issue.
“We approach large firms and individual artists in the same way, and some choose to participate and some don’t. It isn’t the size of the trademark usage that matters, but the principle. Every dollars the MTA earns from licensing revenue is a dollar that isn’t earned from fares,” the MTA said in the statement.
For more information on Victoria McKenzie or to see more examples of her artwork, click here.
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