The Gist: FDNY call box beautification with John Colgan, and a new Lobstar of the antentwig.

The Broken Windows Theory Gets a New Coat of Paint

The Broken Windows Theory Gets a New Coat of Paint

A daily news and culture podcast with Mike Pesca.
Jan. 30 2015 6:45 PM

The One-Man Beautification Plan

A security guard from Queens explains why he’s repainting New York’s forgotten emergency call boxes.

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John Colgan fire call box
It was hard for our guest to find the right vomit-resistant, urine-resistant, and salt-resistant paints.

Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by John Colgan.

Listen to Episode 185 of Slate’s The Gist:


Today on The Gist: a visual avenger for the beauty of Woodside, Queens. His canvas? FDNY fire call boxes, many dating back the 1920s. With a fresh coat of glossy paint (that’s also urine-proof and barf-resistant), they look beautiful. We speak with John Colgan, whom you can follow as the Fire Alarm Guy on Facebook. For the Spiel, it’s an antentwig. That’s our name for a three-week period wherein we correct, amplify, and slouch toward plausible deniability, and it all ends in a Lobstar.


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Mike Pesca is the host of the Slate daily podcast The Gist. He also contributes reports and commentary to NPR.