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"Weed Bombing" Transforms Downtown's Urban Blight into Psychedelic Bling

Categories: StreetWorks
Thumbnail image for WeedBombing11.jpg
Courtesy of Grant Stern
Not photoshopped: Urban activists "weed bomb" a street corner downtown
​If you've been out drinking downtown lately and stumbled upon a street corner bursting with neon-colored weeds, don't worry: It's not an acid trip gone wrong.

It's weed bombing.

"We're tired of living in a big dump overrun with weeds and trash," says chief bombadier Brad Knoefler, owner of downtown club Grand Central. "If the city is going to keep on treating us like this we're going to draw attention to it."

​Knoefler says he's spent $100,000 of his own money over the years cleaning up downtown because the city failed to do so. By this summer, he and other downtown residents were fed up.

"Why do we have to cut the weeds ourselves?" he asks. "We already pay taxes."

Then, this May, he spotted an article on artists in other cities who make political statements by covering things -- statues, street lamps, even buses -- in yarn.

"Yarn bombing," Knoefler says. "They draw attention to things in disgusting neighborhoods. But here in downtown Miami, the roads are actually in really good shape because the city cares much more about automobile traffic than it does about pedestrians."

"But what we do have is vacant lots full of three-foot-tall weeds," he realized. "Why don't we try to start tagging them?"

WeedBombing4.jpg
courtesy of Brad Knoefler
Weed bombers use cardboard to keep from painting the street
​Over the past two months, Knoefler says he and a group of friends, fellow downtowners, and "young kids" have gone on five separate "weed bombing missions." Using cans of spray paint, they tag the giant weeds with outrageous day-glo shades of yellow, red, blue and orange. They even use cardboard to make sure they don't paint sidewalks or buildings, just weeds that shouldn't be there in the first place.

"It's had a beautiful effect," he says. "You walk down the street and smile."

Weed bombing also is a big, bright middle finger to city employees who spend more time power-washing Flagler than cutting back the jungles of undergrowth overtaking downtown, Knoefler says.

But he insists that the guerrilla strategy has actually improved relations with the Downtown Development Authority, the organization charged with the area's upkeep.

"A lot of people laughed, and thought that we were crazy," Knoefler says. "But now I see members of the DDA and tell them: 'You better clean-up those weeds or we're going to bomb them!'"

Except for one cop who threatened to arrest Knoefler, public reaction has been good -- at least from the few pedestrians to actually spot the plastered plants.

Thumbnail image for WeedBombing2.jpg
courtesy of Grant Stern
​"Obviously the first people that noticed were the homeless," he says. "They were really happy about it. One guy even adopted one of the weeds that we painted and sat there all day protecting it."

Yet, Knoefler doesn't think transforming downtown into a pedestrian-friendly, public space will be as easy as tagging some stray grass. He is one of the people behind Grand Central Park. He's also vehemently against "mega projects" like the proposed massive Genting casino.

"That would be the nail in the coffin," he says of the casino. "In every other city, they take old buildings and renovate them. But here in Miami we always look for this magic bullet and nothing ever gets implemented."

Knoefler says the city's promises that the old and new Miami Heat arenas would transform downtown never came true, so it would be stupid to believe the Genting hype.

"We always bend over backwards for these guys from out of town with their fancy renderings and expensive suits," he says. "But then we just end up with these failed mega projects and vacant lots and weeds."

Knoefler says he plans to keep weed bombing until the city addresses his concerns, and may even ramp up the campaign ahead of Art Basel.

"We'll paint the weeds once a month if we have to," he says.

WeedBombing3.jpg
courtesy of Brad Knoefler
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36 comments
WhoWhat
WhoWhat

Did he do this to raise concern about the weeds in the area, or to promote his club in the area?  If he truly cared about the horrible look of the weeds, then he would have cut them down.  It would have taken less time and been cheaper for him.  This seems like a PR stunt

Bee
Bee

although I think this is a cool idea, spray paints have tons of toxic chemicals in them that shouldn't be introduced into our environment and doing so is irresponsible.

:D
:D

thisisahorribleideaimeanfirstoffhowcanweidolizeacommunitywhothinksitsokaytosimplyrunamokinthestreestandspraypainteverywherethisisnodifferentthanrunninguptoaninnocentwallandspraypaintingthewordfuckonitimeancmonpeopleletsthinkaboutthis

Mesaschmoo
Mesaschmoo

Websters defenition  of weed's- an unwanted plant.

Trompushka
Trompushka

'm a painting contractor,I'm sure I'd need a permit for this ..... how toxic is the paint for all the bugs and critters, watch out for epa and fwp ..

Mistrwrong
Mistrwrong

Perhaps if we renamed weeds to "Castro-Turf" and positioned them as the proletariat plants overrunning capitalist infrastructure then we could use Department of Homeland Security money to clean up the evil-doer plants.

Olga
Olga

I think it's beautiful... but who am I, just another tax paying nobody.

SD
SD

So the idea behind this is supposed to be highlighting weeds that need to be gotten rid of, but the end result is people protecting said weeds.  Methinks they're doing it wrong.

Skipdallas1
Skipdallas1

Fairly shortsighted of the city to let the weeds grow to such an extent. Weeds can wreck pavements of all types.Besides being eyesores. At least this "Weed-Bombing" makes them a bit presentable for a short time.

Iamjason4
Iamjason4

The weeds will probably just get added to the duck tour route. Miamians don't care about anything they can't brag about.

The Accomplice
The Accomplice

Brad Knoefler is a hero who is working hard to better where we live. Be grateful to him, and enjoy the art! And i painted the giant blue one with the yellow tips ;)

nanook5
nanook5

honestly, that is fucking ridiculous. if you really care that much about it weed whack it and seed bomb it with easy to grow vegetables like ameranth! 

Trey Bornmann
Trey Bornmann

Look like the street is painted to me. Aren't there day-glo weeds that grow naturally?

Common Cents
Common Cents

Just leave them. They are beautiful. Painted up, I mean.

Medal worthy
Medal worthy

Out-of-town promoters always make promises that do not come through. Luckily for the promoters Miami's elected officials are so stupid no one ever does due diligence or checks references.

Want $3 BILLION from the taxpayers to benefit a privately owned Canadian company? (That's right, the Marlins are owned by a Canadian company). No problemo.

"Hook you right up..."

Brad Knoefler is building a 5 acre park for $200,000. The City spent $55 MILLION on 13 acre Little Haiti Park.

Give the man a medal.

prowest
prowest

Knoefler says the city's promises that the old and new Miami Heat arenas would transform downtown never came true, so it would be stupid to believe the Genting hype

mikeb666
mikeb666

I like it! Im going to do this on the West coast of Florida! Thanks for the great idea!

Somguy
Somguy

hack the plants!

also, you missed a spot ;-)

Nitwin the slumlord
Nitwin the slumlord

The "weed bombing" draws attention to the slumlords who ignore their properties and to the City of Miami which collects $500 MILLION per year in taxes and pays out 85% in salaries and benefits to employees most of whom live outside the City and who don't give a crap how neighborhoods look.

FullSail
FullSail

I think someone needs to listen to "Let It Grow" before bitching about some harmless weeds. If anything plant something you like in place of it; since you know the city won't rip it up.

hippieland
hippieland

Oh Weed bombing. I was thinking something else.

Award the man!
Award the man!

Brad Knoefler deserves an award for living and working in Park West. Brad puts his money where is mouth is. What a difference from all the poverty pimps working for the City and the CRA who don't even live in the City of Miami.

Downtown slumlords
Downtown slumlords

Many of the disgusting vacant lots downtown are owned by out-of-town promoters who use Nitwin Mowani as their spokesperson. The short-of-morals Downtown Development Authority even put this lowlife on it's Board. So they have another slumlord to make stupid decisions.

What does it take to get these slumlords to take care of their vacant lots?

Vfdmiami
Vfdmiami

Well at least some of the neglected blighted areas are transforming into public art and awareness!! 

Cj
Cj

I think he should be arrested for vandalism and made to pay an enviromental fee. Bring on the casinoes!!!

ItsAJoke!
ItsAJoke!

Guys ... you all know that CJ is satirizing right? Even the most ardent lover of casinos would not say "Bring on the casinoes!" (sic) It's clearly a joke, relax everyone. 

Anonymouse
Anonymouse

you do realize brad and co. do more for the city than your casino-mongering ways have ever done and most likely will ever do?

MIA
MIA

CJ your the reason why Miami is a joke and known only for its wak ass SoBe clubs. You probably wear ed hardy and drive a ninja motorcycle with a mohawk helmet. fucking dork.

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