On a sultry July day, passersby sauntering in the vicinity of Third Avenue and 76th Street might have noticed something a bit unusual — a fleet of slightly humpback trucks, each emblazoned with the Graffiti Free NYC logo — parked curbside, as a group of workers, clad in orange, milled about.
The occasion was the kickoff of the neighborhood’s latest graffiti cleanup efforts, spearheaded by State Senator Marty Golden who had called in the big guns – or at least the big trucks which are under the auspices of the mayor’s Community Affairs Unit (CAU) – to tackle the scrawls defacing the neighborhood.
The effort is starting in Bay Ridge, and moving from there throughout Golden’s district, encompassing sites in Community Board 10, Community Board 11, Community Board 15 and Community Board 18.
And, to give it a good sendoff not only Golden but also CAU Commissioner Nazli Parvizi and Deputy Inspector Eric Rodriguez, the commanding officer of the 68th Precinct, were on hand.
Not to be outdone by the group of CAU workers, Rodriguez had brought along the precinct’s dozen new rookie officers, fresh out of the Police Academy, so the sea of orange was mirrored by an equivalent sea of blue.
“Quality of life is the name of the game,” Golden averred. “It keeps people living in this great city.”
Recently, noted Golden, “We have seen a resurgence of low-level crime,” such as graffiti, reason enough to set about eradicating the defacing scrawls.
“We did see a spike in it,” added Rodriguez, “and it’s something we are going to vigorously enforce in the coming months.”
“It’s the broken window theory,” added Chuck Otey, the marketing director for the Merchants of Third Avenue. “If you let them get away with a small one, the next time you see a big one.”
“Senator Golden called and said, We have graffiti. Can you come down?” Parvizi recalled. “We are more than happy to bring all our trucks out, but it’s a real partnership.”
Rather than walking by graffiti and doing nothing, Parvizi said, residents should take action, by calling 311 and getting the necessary waivers from affected property owners so that the city is allowed to eliminate the graffiti.
The trucks “Circle through the city removing graffiti,” said Ray Carrero, the director of CAU’s Quality of Life Unit. Specifically, they respond to neighborhoods where there have been not only complaints but where elected officials, merchant groups or enterprising citizens have gathered a sheaf of waivers.
“We look at the numbers,” explained Teresa Gonzalez, a spokesperson for CAU. “We work with community leaders to identify problem areas, and the waivers we get from constituents make all the difference.”
At this point, CAU is working to clean up approximately 85 locations within CB 10 for which they have waivers. “We are going to stay here until whatever graffiti we have in our database is addressed,” Carrero said. Then, he said, the trucks would move on to other neighborhoods that have been targeted.
About 15 years ago, Bay Ridge was a pioneer in pushing for graffiti removal, Golden recalled. Beginning then, the neighborhood had worked with Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes to set up an alternative sentencing program, whereby individuals who had committed graffiti offenses were sent back to the neighborhood to clean the graffiti up.
“The program worked,” Golden emphasized. “It’s been a remarkable program, and it caught fire not only in this community but in the city, the state and the nation.”
©2008 Community News Group
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