A new revision to the Graffiti Removal Law has some city officials applauding, but locals who say they know what really goes on are less impressed.
The old law, which many had called foolish, required owners of a vandalized property to fill out a waiver allowing the city to have its crews come clean off the graffiti.
The tedious paperwork slowed the process of erasing graffiti. Cleaning crews could only clean selected properties on a block and would often have to skip properties with graffiti because the forms had not been processed yet.
Now, those waiver forms have been waived.
The city can now clean graffiti from a property based on just a request or complaint, though there is a wait of 35 days — still a short time compared to the past rules— before they can actually come get rid of the graffiti.
However, if the city comes to clean a private property, the owner of that property will be charged a fee. This is what has some Bronxites up in arms.
“They should not be charging people for this,” insists John Bonizio, president of the Bronx Business Alliance and owner of Metro Optics eyeglass store.
“They have these cleaning crews sitting around, who do a phenomenal job by the way, and they’re paying them anyway, so it’s a way for the city to make some money. What’s next? When your house is burning down the fire department will charge you to put it out?”
Councilman James Vacca says that the law is a great change, but acknowledges that having the city clean graffiti for you, rather than doing it yourself, comes with a fine.
“I do sympathize with frustration about that,” he admitted. “But I’ve always felt that if landlords are vigilant about removing graffiti, it will not come back. I like to think if the vandals see how quickly it’s removed, they won’t keep doing it.”
Bonizio argued that too often, the vandals do keep coming back, and the city does not do enough to deter them.
“The laws that they have in place to punish graffiti vandals are so inadequate that there’s no strong deterrent,” he said.
“So the new law sounds good but what they need to do is punish offenders better, or kids will keep doing graffiti and the property owners will keep paying the price,”
John Cerini of the Throggs Neck Merchants Association feels torn on the new law.
“I’m sure many of the landlords are not going to be happy because they’ll have to either clean it themselves or pay,” he reasons, “but it sure sounds like a good system. If someone points out graffiti, the city can just clean it, and that’s great.”
The bottom line is that fee or no fee, those who do wish to have the city clean their property can now accomplish that more quickly.
“I can’t see how a person could be upset,” said Cerini, “that the city is now going to be faster about cleaning up their property.”
To reach reporter Daniel Roberts at (718) 742-3383 or firstname.lastname@example.org