Art to quell graffiti outside three local high schools

The Lehman Educational Campus as seen from East Tremont Avenue.
Community News Group/Sarah Valenzuela

Addendum: After completion of the project along the stone walls across the street from the Lehman Campus, the project is expected to extend to the Westchester Square IRT #6 train station.

Addressing the graffiti problem could be as easy as painting something more attractive.

In efforts to prevent unsolicited graffiti, Councilman Mark Gjonaj has forwarded a different solution: paint basic, yet colorful geometric shapes or other art designs on the grafitti vandals’ favorite target: bare walls.

“When there’s something nice to look at and to appreciate, people are less likely to mess it up,” said the councilman of the project.

The idea of painting walls with murals, simple designs, or other artistic designs is not a new one.

In fact research from multiple studies done in cities worldwide suggest that while blank walls attract graffiti tagging, walls with paintings or designs already on them are less likely to be vandalized.

The concept is also not the first for the borough. In May 2017, a mural in tribute to ‘A Bronx Tale’ was painted on a bare Belmont wall that once was targeted by graffiti vandals.

While the definition between unsightly graffiti and street art walk a fine line, this project aims to make specific blank wall spaces more aesthetically engaging.

Though the councilman had mostly heavily graffitied areas in mind, the first portion of the funding targets high schools in his district: Lehman High School, Christopher Columbus High School and the Bronx High School for the Visual Arts.

When the councilman approached the schools about his idea, he recalled they were mostly in agreement from the start.

The current policy toward cleaning up graffiti on school buildings is to remove it as soon as possible, according to NYC Department of Education spokesperson, Miranda Barbot.

“Schools must provide welcoming environments for communities and our facilities staff work around the clock to ensure our buildings are clean and safe,” said Barbot.

Even after the rapid response cleaning of these unauthorized spray paintings, you can still see either faded graffiti, outlines of fresh neutral-colored paint that school personnel used to cover the graffiti, or the outline for where the graffiti was removed.

“It’s a waste of time, money and energy to keep cleaning and removing graffiti,” said Gjonaj.

“This could prevent people from spraying graffiti on these buildings in the first place,” the councilman continued.

The plan behind introducing the project to the schools first was to get students invested in those buildings and the community around them, which could help inspire others in the neighborhood to come up with ways to beautify their neighborhoods.

The three schools each received $5,000 from Gjonaj’s office for the project, but the work is also expected to extend to properties adjacent to the schools.

Those sites include the blank wall of the overpass across the street from the Lehman Educational Campus on East Tremont Avenue and the bare wall that borders the Christopher Columbus Campus on Bronxdale Avenue.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the smiles on people’s faces when these get completed,” said the councilman.

While the schools will coordinate the students working on the project, such as which students are chosen and the subjects of the art, the first of these pieces could be finished by summer 2018, according to Gjonaj.

Reach Reporter Sarah Valenzuela at (718) 260-4584. E-mail her at

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