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http://nypost.com/2014/10/06/graffiti-rearing-its-ugly-head-again-in-nyc/

 

Graffiti rearing its ugly head again in NYC

By Lois Weiss October 6, 2014 | 10:10pm

 

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Graffiti, a “broken windows” indicator about the quality of life in any city, is starting a slow, ugly creep around the Big Apple — with new tags appearing nightly.

In August, The Post noticed three tags that popped up overnight on the electronic road signs along the FDR Drive.

In the Bronx, a red-brick apartment building at 903-905 Summit Ave., visible from the Major Deegan, has become a full-blown sprayer magnet. The tags and pseudo art on its rear base along Sedgwick Avenue expands on a nightly basis.

From the West Side Highway, graffiti can be seen along the Amtrak tracks where fences are torn away as well as on buildings in the West 100s.

While kayaking on the East River, The Post spotted graffiti along the esplanades, under various bridge abutments and high up on railroad trestles — proving the taggers are as daring as they are pernicious, as one misstep could spell doom.

“[Graffiti] has always been simmering and always an issue in the last 10 years, especially in the boroughs,” said Frank Ricci, director of government affairs for the apartment building owners group, the Rent Stabilization Association. “A lot of owners try to stay on top of it, and a lot get disgusted and stop trying.”

The NYPD is also trying to keep up.

 

Graffiti arrests in the city rose 4 percent in the first eight months of the year, to 1,080, city statistics show. But despite law enforcement’s best effort, graffiti continues to leave its mark.

The NYPD arrested 3,598 people for graffiti and related crimes in 2013, up slightly from 2012 but down 13 percent from the 4,000-plus levels of 2009 and 2008, city statistics show.

Graffiti-Free NYC, a partnership between the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit, the Economic Development Corp. and the Department of Sanitation, said that between 2008 and November 2011, more than 170 million square feet of surface area had been cleaned. Up to and including this past May, the team had cleaned 82,644 incidents of graffiti.

Despite the efforts, the taggers seem to be winning this latest round.

No one knows this better than Marie Franco, 24, who lives in the Summit Avenue building in The Bronx that has been targeted by graffiti taggers.

Google Maps Street View showing photos from 2007 to 2012 detail the slow but steady progression of tagging. By the end of August, the base of Franco’s building was completely covered with layers of random drawings and tags that wound along its south and west sides — and even across several apartment windows.

Franco, who lives in the 43-unit building with her 3-year-old son Grayston, sees the problem growing and growing. “It’s getting more and more,” said Franco of the graffiti. “It’s even in the windows.”

Back in the 1980s, this Summit building was a poster child for abandonment and its broken windows were eventually covered with then-Mayor Ed Koch’s cover-up brainchild — decals depicting drapes and potted flowers to fake inhabitance.

 

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By the early 1990s, it was among a handful turned over to the Mid-Bronx Housing Development Fund for low-income renters and the building’s yearly $72,000 in city property taxes is waived.

Aoianon Espiano, a maintainer with Mid-Bronx, says he was going to paint over the graffiti. “We got an insurance company that does not want the graffiti on the wall,” Espiano explained. He can’t catch the vandals, and can hardly keep up with them, having painted it over twice in the last year, he said.

The efforts of the city’s free program, Graffiti-Free NYC, that cleans up private buildings, is being matched by even more brazen taggers. They watch fellow “street artists” getting cred, fame and fortune at the same time police officers seem to be concentrating on the growing surge in gun crimes and phone thefts.

If a graffiti report is taken by 311, a notice is sent to both the owner and the building address, giving 35 days to decline the services. The long time period is to ensure that owners who commission graffiti or murals by Banksy don’t wake up and find them painted over by the crew.

“It’s one of the contentious issues in the city,” said one city official, who asked not to be identified. “What is graffiti and what is art?”

“Graffiti-Free NYC has proven to be an extraordinarily successful program since its inception, cleaning tens of thousands of square feet of graffiti in all five boroughs,” said Ian Fried, an NYCEDC spokesman. “We look forward to continuing to offer this free service to all New Yorkers as we remain committed to improving community life and responding to the needs of neighborhoods

across the city.”

The Sanitation Department is about a year behind on clean-ups. Since August 2013, the agency had closed 7,166 graffiti reports, but as of last Aug. 31, had another 7,739 still open.

And the service does not clean up the city’s own roadways, bridges or parks.

Since 2003, the city has actually kept score through its 311 system. According to open data Web information, since 2003, 81,525 graffiti reports were made to 311 and the police responded to 1,161 of those. Six arrests for graffiti vandalism were made since last October, with five of those in April (four in Brooklyn, one in Queens and one in Manhattan at 20 W. 72nd St.)

In late August, The Post reported two vandals were arrested spray painting doodles, tag names, faces and “in god we don’t trust” on the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial Monument on Riverside Drive and West 89th Street around 3:20 a.m.

“When responding to a graffiti call, the suspects are usually long gone when you get there,” Sgt. Nathaniel Herman told The Post. “But this time we got them, literally, red-handed.”

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