A street corner in one of the busiest shopping areas of Bensonhurst is on the front lines in the war against graffiti vandals.
“Graffiti is an eyesore,” state Sen. Marty Golden (R-Bay Ridge-Bensonhurst) said as he stood on the corner of 18th Avenue and 67th Street on Sept. 7 holding the hose of a power washer.
Behind Golden was a graffiti covered wall on the 67th Street side of the building housing BMA Jewelers at 6623 18th Ave. The building owner had signed a waiver giving the city permission to power wash the wall to remove the spray paint, Golden said.
A few minutes later, Golden sprayed water on the wall, removing any traces of the spray painted messages that graffiti vandals had painted there. “Look at that!” Golden said after he was done. “How long did that take? It was less than five minutes,” he said.
The building at 6623 18th Ave. is the first of what Golden and local officials hope will be a long list of 18th Avenue sites to be cleaned as part of the Bloomberg Administration’s anti-graffiti program, Graffiti Free NYC. Under the program, which is administered by the Economic Development Corporation, the city dispatches a cleaning truck to commercial locations to remove graffiti.
Anyone interested in having graffiti removed from a building can call 311, Golden’s office at 718-238-6044, or Community Board 11 in Bensonhurst at 718-266-8800, to arrange for a cleanup.
“All a building owner has to do is sign a waiver. And waiver is open ended,” Andrew Olsen, a representative from the Mayor’s Community Assistance Unit, said. If graffiti vandals returned, the building owner would not have to fill out a second waiver, Olsen said.
The service is free, Olsen said.
A casual look at 18th Avenue, a commercial area containing dozens of shops and restaurants between 60th and 75th Streets, reveals several storefronts and side walls riddled with graffiti.
Golden said he requested the visit from Graffiti Free NYC after talking to a Bensonhurst resident, Carmine LoMonaco, and listening to his complaints about the proliferation of graffiti on 18th Avenue. “He gave us a little push. He asked us, ‘What are you guys doing about this?’” Golden said.
“This is a great neighborhood. Graffiti is a senseless crime. I want to see it go away,” said LoMonaco, who came by that day to see Golden in action.
Marnee Elias-Pavia, district manager of Community Board 11, agreed with LoMonaco that graffiti is on the rise in the neighborhood. “There has been an increase in recent months,” she said. “We want to send a message to these vandals that we’re not going to take it anymore.”
The graffiti marred wall cleaned by Golden was located next to a building that contained a touching mural that paid tribute to police officers and firefighters killed in the Sept. 11 attack.
The goal of the Graffiti Free NYC is to make the city’s shopping areas more attractive to customers, according to Golden. “People don’t want to go into a store when they see graffiti,” he said.
It also brings down the entire community, Golden said. “If graffiti is on one store, they’ll put it on another store. It breeds crime. Eventually, you see a breakdown in our society,” he said.
Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes takes graffiti crimes seriously, Golden said. “I don’t care if you are 14 or 15 or 24 or 25. If you do graffiti, you get prosecuted and you get more than just a slap on the wrist,” he said.