2016-04-06 / Front Page

City Shows Zero Vision In Slashing Graffiti Cleanup

By Liz Goff

The city Department of Transportation (DOT) quietly dismantled its anti-graffiti crew last year and stopped cleaning tags, scrawls and other “artwork” from traffic signal poles, light poles, stop signs, traffic signs and other DOT property.

Aides to Mayor Bill deBlasio say the cuts were necessary because the city doesn’t have enough cash to pay for the cleanups.

DOT commissioner Polly Trottenberg said the city needs every available dollar to fund the mayor’s Vision Zero initiative.

“With respect to graffiti which defaces DOT property – such as utility boxes –s without causing unsafe conditions, it is difficult for DOT to extend many precious resources for the removal of graffiti at the expense of needed maintenance and transportation improvements,” Tottenberg wrote in a letter to state Sen. Tony Avella. Instead, the city plans to paint every five years, and will continue to remove obscene, dangerous or racist graffiti, Trottenberg said.

Officials refused to say how much DOT spent on cleaning graffiti before it decided to pull the plug on the program. Critics say the move is another sign that deBlasio has little concern for quality of life issues and enforcing low-level crimes in city neighborhoods.

“DeBlasio has given up on any kind of enforcement, that maintains quality of life,” a local leader from Astoria said. “It’s like he can’t wait to undo all the good things that were accomplished by Rudy Guliani and Bill Bratton in the 1990s. We’re very close to a point where visitors will take their dollars to other cities when they vacation,” the man said.

Residents and business owners in western Queens may still report graffiti to local lawmakers.
A spokesperson for City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer said the lawmaker has continued to allocate funds for graffiti cleanup in his budget. “It’s something we have been doing for a long time,” the spokesperson said. “Anyone who needs help or information about graffiti removal should call Van Bramer’s director of constituency services at 718-383-9566 or email a request to Dfarrington@council.nyclgov.

Councilmember Costa Constantinides has likewise allocated funds for graffiti cleanup, a spokesperson said. For information or to identify a problem location call Constantinides’ director of constituency services at 718-274-4500.

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