College is no guarantee against poverty

NEW YORK — Portraits of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump stand seven feet tall glaring over Union Square Park one Friday night. In front of the portraits, the college educated artist Jeffrey Reid, 55, is sitting on a milk crate, playing on his drum set, asking people for donations.

Jeffrey Reid in front of his portraits of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton

Reid, originally from Chicago, has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Columbia College. He was honorably discharged from the United States Air Force in 1981. Now he makes his living exhibiting his artwork on the streets of New York City.

He says the original paintings aren’t for sale, but he sells posters of the paintings for $20 a piece. Still, most of his income comes from donations people make to take pictures of the large scale portraits.

“A donation is usually a dollar,” Reid says, he interrupts himself as two people stop and to take pictures of the Clinton and Trump portraits, “Any donation will be helpful, sir!” One of the men reaches into his pocket and pulls out a single to give Reid, the other ask if he can break a $50 bill, Reid says yes, but the man walks away.

He’s a tech savvy street vendor- he has his own website, social media accounts and a LinkedIn profile. He also has a YouTube channel with over a hundred videos, and he’s not shy to talk about his art and interests. Neither accounts seem to be updated regularly. He says his goal is to get his paintings in a gallery somewhere in the city, but so far he hasn’t had any luck.

Reid says he has a studio apartment in Manhattan Valley, a small area on the Upper West Side that stretches from W 96th to W 110th street between Central Park West and Broadway, known to many for its public housing projects. He says he’s lucky to have family that is currently supporting him so he’s able to keep an apartment because the donations he receives would not be enough.

A YouTube video of Reid posted about a year ago shows him in less “fortunate” position. He calls for Donald Trump to build a tower to house the homeless, himself included.

Data collected by NYC Center of Economic Opportunity shows that 9.3% of those with a Bachelor’s Degree (or higher) live in poverty, in New York City. Nationwide this number is less than half, at 4.4%.

New York City has a problem.

Table from NYC Center of Economic Opportunity